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Has your child ever complained of chest pain? A sudden, throbbing pain that makes them cry. An episode like that can leave any parent scared and worried. We spoke to Dr Ramakanta Panda, cardiovascular thoracic surgeon, Managing Director & Vice Chairman, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai to understand when parents should seek help.

“A majority of the time, chest pain is benign. The cause could just be issues relating to the skin, bones, food pipe, muscle strain, a compressed nerve or even lungs. If the child experiences chest pain that lasts for a few seconds or even hours, then that is not related to the heart and not a major reason to worry.” However, in case the child gets pain only during physical exercise and this lasts longer and after some rest goes away, one might suspect a serious situation related to the heart.

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Crying loudly can also be a form of exercise for a small child, which can make the heart beat faster and require more blood for pumping. In such a scenario if there are any birth defects in the heart, a child experiences chest pain.

While heart related chest pain in children is not very common, if not diagnosed in time, it can become dangerous. It is important for the parents to understand when the chest pain is related to the heart and when it is not and consult a doctor accordingly.

Talking about the diagnosis and treatment, Dr Panda added, “Once you know the diagnosis, then depending on the severity of the heart abnormality/defect, it can be either managed conservatively with medicines and lifestyle modifications or with a surgical intervention.”

There are two situations, when this could be serious- in both cases, a particular artery is abnormally placed (birth defect)

1. Higher origin artery- Instead of its normal position, the artery originates at a higher angle and gets kinked when it dilates due to strenuous exercise or exertion.

2. Artery takes the wrong course: The artery is wrongly placed in between the aorta and pulmonary artery. Hence, when the child exercises/ or even when an infant cries very loudly, more blood goes through it. The coronary artery gets compressed and causes chest pain.

So if chest pain arises only during exertion due to physical activity and lasts much longer, one must visit a doctor. In a rare situation, the doctor may advise a CT scan. An experienced doctor may be able to detect this in a routine ECG as well, especially when the child is crying or experiencing pain.

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