What to Know About Costochondritis and COVID-19

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Chest pain from costochondritis is a symptom that may be experienced after a COVID-19 infection. It is a long COVID symptom, meaning it persists for an extended period of time after a person recovers from COVID-19. Costochondritis after a COVID-19 illness is seen most often in children.

The exact connection between costochondritis and coronavirus (COVID-19) is unknown. It may be due to inflammation of the cartilage that attaches the ribs to the breastbone (sternum). The inflammation may be caused by repeated coughing from the infection.

This article will explore the risks, complications, and treatments of COVID-induced costochondritis induced by COVID-19.

Child in bed, grimacing, with hand on chest

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Costochondritis and COVID-19 Risk

COVID-19 can cause debilitating, lingering symptoms long after the infection has resolved. One of those symptoms is costochondritis.

COVID-19 is associated with inflammation in the lungs and other parts of the body, such as the heart, brain, and muscles. Children are particularly susceptible to inflammation of the cartilage that attaches to the sternum.

Currently, no studies have determined the number of cases of costochondritis. But the likelihood of developing this symptom is lower with COVID-19 vaccination due to the lower rates of infection and slightly lower risk of developing long COVID symptoms.

Complications of Costochondritis and COVID-19

If you are unvaccinated or have an underlying health condition, you are more likely to experience COVID-19-related complications in general, including costochondritis. The following long-haul symptoms and medical conditions are common after a bout of COVID-19:

  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog (difficulty thinking or concentrating)
  • Loss of or change in sense of smell or taste
  • Rash
  • Muscle aches and pains 

Costochondritis is usually a benign (harmless) condition that goes away on its own in a few days or weeks, with or without treatment. Still, it can be extremely painful and debilitating, especially in children.

Treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen), Mobic (meloxicam), or Colcrys (colchicine) can be initiated to reduce pain and preserve quality of life. If left untreated, costochondritis may lead to anxiety and recurring episodes. 

Costochondritis Treatments and COVID-19

Costochondritis post-COVID-19 chest pain in children usually is unresponsive to common NSAIDs and treatments such as corticosteroid injections.

Case studies have shown that colchicine may be an effective treatment for costochondritis, especially when conventional therapies have failed. Colchicine is typically used to prevent or treat gout. Its use for costochondritis is off-label, meaning that it is not specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for that purpose but may help.

How to Stay Safe

The best way to prevent post-COVID medical complications is to protect yourself from getting and transmitting COVID-19. To avoid acquiring and transmitting the virus:

  • Get vaccinated (vaccines are available for all individuals 6 months and older).
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
  • Keep your hands away from your mouth.
  • Wear a mask when you are in crowded areas, especially with people of unknown vaccination status.
  • Stay home if you are not feeling well, and isolate yourself from others, including family members, if possible.
  • Get tested. Knowing your status means you can access antiviral treatment early on when the medication is most effective.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle that includes eating a heart-healthy diet and engaging in routine exercise. 
  • Never smoke.

Of note, even if you have had COVID-19, it is still important to get vaccinated. Vaccination reduces your risk of hospitalization and death. Research suggests that those who receive the vaccine have a lower risk of infection and are less likely to develop long-COVID symptoms such as costochondritis compared to those who do not.


Costochondritis, a painful chest pain due to swelling of the cartilage that attaches to the sternum, is a rare post-COVID symptom that some children may experience. It may be treated with NSAIDS and colchicine.

A Word From Verywell

If your child is experiencing musculoskeletal chest pain long after their infection has cleared up, they may be experiencing costochondritis.

It’s important to note that costochondritis is not the only form of chest pain associated with COVID-19. Therefore, you should never assume, even in children, that chest pain is a harmless symptom that will simply go away.

While costochondritis is a highly treatable and relatively benign condition, other forms of chest pain may be life-threatening. Therefore, if you or your child experiences chest pain, seek immediate medical attention.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I develop costochondritis?

    Yes. The COVID-19 vaccine lowers your risk of infection and reduces the likelihood of long-COVID symptoms such as costochondritis, especially in children.

  • Do people with costochondritis have a greater chance of serious complications from COVID-19 than others?

    There is no evidence that costochondritis puts you at higher risk of develop serious complications from COVID-19 

  • Can adults with COVID-19 develop costochondritis?

    Costochondritis after a COVID-19 illness can affect anyone, but it seems to be much more prevalent in children.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Collins RA, Ray N, Ratheal K, Colon A. Severe post-COVID-19 costochondritis in children. Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2021;35(1):56-57. doi:10.1080/08998280.2021.1973274

  2. Reardon S. Long COVID risk falls only slightly after vaccination, huge study shows. Nature. 2022:d41586-022-01453-0. doi:10.1038/d41586-022-01453-0

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Long COVID or post-COVID conditions.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How to protect yourself and others.

  5. Ayoubkhani D, Bermingham C, Pouwels KB, et al. Trajectory of long COVID symptoms after COVID-19 vaccination: community based cohort studyBMJ. 2022;377. doi:10.1136/bmj-2021-069676

By Shamard Charles, MD, MPH
Shamard Charles, MD, MPH is a public health physician and journalist. He has held positions with major news networks like NBC reporting on health policy, public health initiatives, diversity in medicine, and new developments in health care research and medical treatments.