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Chest Tubes In Children


A chest tube is also known as chest drain or chest drainage tube. It is a plastic tube that is put through the side of your child's chest. It uses a suction device to remove air, blood, or fluid from around your child's lungs or heart. A chest tube will help your child breathe more easily.



  • Antibiotics: This medicine helps fight an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Pain medicine: Your child may be given medicine to take away or decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you give your child his medicine.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age: Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Deep breathing and coughing:

Deep breathing and coughing helps open the air passages in your child's lungs and brings up mucus from his lungs. Your child should deep breathe and cough every hour while he is awake. Your child may hold a pillow tightly over the tube insertion area to decrease pain when he coughs. Your child should take a deep breath and hold it as long as he can. Then he should push the air out of his lungs with a deep strong cough. He may be given an incentive spirometer. This device helps your child take deeper breaths. Put the plastic piece into your child's mouth and ask him to take a deep breath. Tell your child to hold his breath as long as he can, then breathe out. Have your child use the incentive spirometer 10 times in a row every hour while he is awake.


Exercise helps to prevent blood clots and helps keep your child's lungs filled with air. Talk to your child's healthcare provider before you let your child begin exercise activities.

Wound care:

Keep the bandage clean and dry. Ask if and when you should change your child's bandage. Ask your child's healthcare provider when he may take a shower or bath.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child starts to vomit.
  • Your child's pain does not go away after pain medicine has been given.
  • Your child's skin is itchy, swollen, or has a new rash.
  • The area where the tube was placed is swollen, red, or has pus coming from it.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child has sudden chest pain.
  • Your child has sudden trouble breathing.
  • Your child's bandage becomes soaked with blood.
  • Your child's stitches have come apart.

© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.