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Home > Health Library > Chest Problems
Chest discomfort or pain may be a key warning symptom of a heart attack. Heart attack symptoms may include:
Chest discomfort or pain that comes on or gets worse with exercise, stress, or eating a large meal and goes away with rest may also be a symptom of heart disease called angina.
If you have any of these symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 or other emergency services immediately. After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself. Since most of the damage to the heart muscle during a heart attack occurs in the first 6 hours, emergency treatment may prevent damage to the heart muscle and death. For men and women, the most common symptom is chest pain or pressure. Women are somewhat more likely than men to have other symptoms like shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain.
Most people fear that chest pain always means that something is wrong with the heart. This is not the case. Chest discomfort or pain, especially in people who are younger than age 40, can have many causes.
Other, more serious problems that can cause chest pain include:
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Pain in adults and older children
Severe trouble breathing means:
Moderate trouble breathing means:
Mild trouble breathing means:
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur after a sudden illness or injury.
Adults and older children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly after a sudden illness or injury.
Babies and young children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
Symptoms of a heart attack may include:
For men and women, the most common symptom is chest pain or pressure. But women are somewhat more likely than men to have other symptoms, like shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength (325 mg) or 2 to 4 low-dose (81 mg) aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
Home treatment is not appropriate for chest pain if the pain occurs with symptoms of a heart attack. If you think a heart attack might be the cause of your symptoms, call 911 or other emergency services immediately. After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
If you have stable angina, you can probably predict when your symptoms will happen. You probably know what things cause your angina. If you and your doctor have made a home treatment plan, follow that plan. If you are having angina symptoms more often than usual or if they are different or worse than usual, call your doctor right away. If you have angina symptoms that do not go away with rest or are not getting better within 5 minutes after you take a dose of nitroglycerin, call 911 or other emergency services immediately.
You may be able to control how much your angina bothers you by making changes in your lifestyle. You may find it helpful to:
If you do not need 911 emergency medical treatment for your chest pain or angina, take your pulse before reporting your symptoms to your doctor. Your heart rate and rhythm at the time of your chest pain may help your doctor evaluate your symptoms.
Home treatment for minor chest pain depends on the cause of the pain. Minor chest pain often improves with home treatment. A visit to your doctor may not be needed.
For chest wall pain caused by strained muscles or ligaments or a fractured rib:
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
If you have other symptoms along with your minor chest pain, see the Related Information section for topics that relate to your other symptoms.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
The following tips may prevent chest problems or injuries.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topicMaking the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
Current as of:
July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineE. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
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