What is rib contusion?

Rib Contusion
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Bruised rib in children: Overview

Your child can get a bruised rib from falling or getting hit, such as in an accident or while playing sports. The medical term for a bruise is "contusion." Small blood vessels get torn and leak blood under the skin.

Most people think of a bruise as a black-and-blue area. But bones and muscles can also get bruised. An injury may damage the rib but not cause a bruise that you can see.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a rib is bruised or broken. The symptoms may be the same. And a broken bone can't always be seen on an X-ray. But the treatment for a bruised rib is often the same as treatment for a broken one.

An injury to the ribs can cause pain. The pain may be worse when your child breathes deeply, coughs, or sneezes.

In most cases, a bruised rib will heal on its own. Your child can take pain medicine while the rib mends. Pain relief allows your child to take deep breaths.

How can you care for your child who has a bruised rib?

  • Rest and protect the injured or sore area. Have your child stop, change, or take a break from any activity that causes pain.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.
  • After 2 or 3 days, if the swelling is gone, put a heating pad set on low or a warm cloth on your child's chest. Some doctors suggest that you go back and forth between hot and cold. Put a thin cloth between the heating pad and your child's skin.
  • Ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). No one younger than 20 should take aspirin. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness. Do not give naproxen (Aleve) to a child younger than 12 unless your doctor says it's okay. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • As the pain gets better, your child can slowly return to their normal activities. Be patient, because rib bruises can take weeks or months to heal. If the pain gets worse, it may be a sign that your child needs to rest a while longer.

Bruised rib: When to call

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

  • You have severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have a new or worse cough.
  • You have new or worse pain.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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