Infant care: Dealing with a fractured rib

A fractured rib is not easy to identify especially among infants. In case a child sustained trauma to the chest, a doctor should be seen for immediate diagnosis and treatment. If a broken rib is left untreated, it can lead to significant damage to the internal organs.

One might have no idea that an infant has a fractured rib until an X-ray, MRI or CT scan is done to diagnose the issue. The site of the fracture might be swollen, bruised or tender to the touch. The child might be wheezing while breathing or you can hear a crackling sound as the child breathes. Taking in deep breaths can be painful, thus adding up to the fussiness and irritability of the child.

Possible causes of a fractured rib


Fractures on the ribs can also be caused by severe episodes of coughing especially with whooping cough.

In most cases of rib fractures among infants, child abuse is the cause. Other possible causes of a fractured rib among babies include birth trauma and other conditions such as osteogenesis imperfecta, rickets and being premature.

Fractures on the ribs can also be caused by severe episodes of coughing especially with whooping cough. It is rare for a fracture to occur during birth or CPR.


Relief from pain is the only treatment necessary. Pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can provide relief to infants but a doctor should be consulted first for the right dosage.

Application of ice on the site of the fracture at 10 minutes throughout the day lessens the swelling and inflammation. In case the rib is cracked, surgery might be required to lower the risk for damage to the blood vessels and bodily organs.


If an infant is suspected of being abused, get in touch with the local department of human services.

If a parent becomes frustrated with a crying infant, place the child safely in a crib and call a family member for help. This lessens the chances for the parent or caregiver to lose patience and unintentionally hurt the child.

The chances of accidental fractures can be reduced by keeping the house organized and free from clutter. This helps in preventing trips or falls while holding the child. Make sure that all rugs have a skid-proof base. In addition, keep the child in a car seat and make sure that the seat is properly secured to the interior of the vehicle.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on a fractured rib is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage the injury by taking a standard first aid course with Kelowna First Aid.