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Chest Wall Strain (Child)

Injury can overstretch a muscle on the front or back of the chest wall. This is called a chest wall strain. In children, the injury may occur during play or sports. It may also happen during repeated coughing or when lifting a heavy object. Symptoms include sharp pain and soreness. However, no serious injury or permanent damage is present.

Muscle strain can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription medications for pain and swelling. Pain from a muscle strain usually resolves within a week.

Home care

  • The health care provider may prescribe medications for pain and swelling. If the child has strained the chest by coughing, a cough medication may be prescribed. Follow the doctor’s instructions for giving medications to your child. Do not give your child medications that were not prescribed.

  • Allow your child to rest as needed.

  • Cold can help reduce swelling and pain. Wrap a cold pack or bag of frozen peas in a thin towel. Have the child apply this to the affected site for up to 20 minutes, 4 to 8 times a day. Do not apply cold for longer than 20 minutes at a time.

  • Have your child hold a pillow to the affected area when coughing. This can help ease pain due to the injury.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s health care provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Unless your child's healthcare provider advises otherwise, call the provider right away if:

  • Your child is younger than 2 years of age and has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) that continues for more than 1 day.

  • Your child is 2 years old or older and has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) that continues for more than 3 days.

  • Your child is of any age and has repeated fevers above 104°F (40°C).

Also call if your child has any of the following:

  • Pain not relieved by medications.

  • Numbness or severe pain that lasts longer than 1 hour

  • Trouble breathing, shortness of breath, or fast breathing

  • Pain that continues for longer than 7 days

  • Trouble moving normally

  • Loss of strength

  • Redness develops or swelling gets worse and not better


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