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Costochondritis in Children: Care Instructions


Costochondritis means the cartilage of the rib cage gets swollen and inflamed. This causes pain in the chest. But it is not a heart problem. The pain may last from days to weeks.

Sometimes this problem happens when a child has a cold or influenza (flu). Other times, doctors don't know what caused it.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Give your child medicines for pain and inflammation exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • It may help to use a warm compress on your child's chest.
  • Have your child avoid activities that stretch the chest area. When the pain gets better, your child can slowly return to their normal activities.
  • Do not use tape, an elastic bandage, or a "rib belt" around your child's chest.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has a fever or cough.
  • Your child has trouble breathing.
  • Your child's chest pain gets worse.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child is taking anti-inflammatory medicine but still has chest pain.
  • Your child's chest pain is not getting better after 5 to 7 days.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.