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Rib Fracture in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What is a rib fracture?

A rib fracture is a crack or break in one or more of your child's ribs. Great force is needed to break the bones of children younger than 7 years. The force is higher than what is needed to break the bones of older children or adults. Greater force increases the risk for organ damage.

Rib Fracture

What are the signs and symptoms of a rib fracture?

Your child may have pain in his or her chest, especially when he or she breathes deeply, coughs, or moves. You may see your child hold his or her side while breathing. You may see bruises around the area of the rib fracture.

How is a rib fracture diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child's injury and examine him or her. The provider will look for any signs of bleeding or bruising. He or she will also ask about your child's breathing and pain. An x-ray or CT scan may show the fracture or other injuries. Your child may be given contrast liquid to help the fracture show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.

How is a rib fracture treated?

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my child's doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. 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.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.