Fractured ribs among infants

It is important to note that a fractured rib is not always easy to identify, especially since an infant cannot tell if there is something wrong. If an infant sustained trauma to the chest, a doctor should always be consulted for proper diagnosis and treatment. Remember that an infant with cracked or fractured ribs that is not treated can lead to significant damage to the internal organs.

How to identify fractured ribs

In most circumstances, you might have no clue that an infant has fractured ribs until a doctor performs an X-ray, MRI or CT scan to diagnose the problem. The area in the chest where the fracture occurred might be swollen, bruised and tender to the touch. The infant might wheeze while breathing or there is a distinctive crackling sound while breathing. Deep breathing can be painful, thus the infant might seem fussy and irritable.


The pain caused by the fractured ribs requires treatment.

What are the possible causes?

Most cases of fractured ribs on infants are caused by child abuse. In a study conducted, it was discovered that fractured ribs were caused by child abuse while other possible causes include accidental damage due to birth trauma or caused by certain conditions such as rickets, osteogenesis imperfect as well as prematurity.

Fractured ribs can also be triggered by intense coughing episodes such as whooping cough. Take note that it is uncommon for a rib fracture to occur during the birth process or when CPR was performed.


The pain caused by the fractured ribs requires treatment. In most cases, ibuprofen or acetaminophen are given to provide relief for infants but a doctor should be consulted first for proper dosage which is based on the weight of the child.

The application of an ice over the fractured area for 10 minutes a few times in a day can help minimize the swelling and inflammation. Just make sure that the ice pack is not applied directly over the skin. It should be covered or wrapped in a clean cloth or towel that serves as a barrier. In case the rib is cracked, surgery might be required in order to minimize the risk of injury to the surrounding blood vessels and vital organs.

Preventive measures

Once a child is suspected of being abused, it is best to get in touch with the local department for human services.

When a parent becomes frustrated with a crying infant, he/she must place the infant safely in the crib and request a family member to help. Remember that it is better for the infant to cry on his/her crib than having the parent lose his/her patience and eventually harm the baby.

In order to minimize the risk for accidental fractures, it is important to keep the house clean and free from any clutter on the ground to prevent falls or tripping while holding an infant. Make sure that all rugs have a skid-proof base. In addition, always keep the infant in a car seat while in a vehicle and ensure that the seat is properly secured to the interior of the vehicle.


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