Careers: EMT/Emergency Medical Technicians/Ribs


QUESTION: I quit smoking last week and had a really bad hacking cough. I had a really bad pain on my left side. I got this bump between the bottom 3rd and 4th rib on the left side. It feels like an ice cube floating in water. It wobbles when you push it lightly.

How can I make it feel better? And what's wrong with me?

I don't have money so I don't want the hospital if there is no reason for it. ANY way to feel better is awesome thanks

ANSWER: Hello,

I'm glad your trying to quit, there are so many health related problems associated with smoking and any time you can quit or reduce it will help you live a longer, healthier life.

The bump between your ribs?.. it's hard to say what exactly what it is but it sounds like it could be some kind of fluid filled cyst? If it isn't an infectious cyst it may reabsorb over a couple weeks to a month, if it's infected it will likely get larger and cause more problems. If it's infectious you will probably have more pain, it may grow in size or rupture into the lining of the lung causing a spread of the infection, probably moving into the bloodstream becoming a systemic infection with fever and chills. If it is infectious you will need a medical doctor to take care of it, antibiotics at the least, but possibly a CT scan, possibly some minor surgery on the chest wall to drain it and clean the infection out.

At this point I can't say if it will go away on it's own or you will get sicker? Ibuprofen or your favorite OTC pain medication. Possibly a warm pack to promote reabsorption of the fluid into the body. If it gets worse, or if you develop a fever, chills, or shortness of breath, see a doctor as soon as you can.

Good luck, I hope you get better soon. Good luck with quitting.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for wishing me luck with quitting. I don't think I was clear though with my question. I was referring to a bone problem. I was hoping you could tell me if its a break, dislocation or just a rib seperation and how to treat it or if its time for Doctor SawBones. Thanks again

Hello again,

It is possible to bruise or possibly fracture a rib from forceful coughing, but when you explained it as an "icecube floating in water... between the ribs" that sounds more like an encapsulated pocket than a fracture. A fracture would be more of a sore area along the rib, possibly a bump felt on the rib (not between the ribs). for a rib fracture.. rest, anti-inflammatory medication, and possibly a Ace wrap to assist in the stability of the chest. Again, watch for signs of fever or infection and get to a doctor if it gets worse.

Good luck again,


Careers: EMT/Emergency Medical Technicians

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Marcus LaBarbera


I am available to answer most questions related to: first aid, pre- hospital medicine, EMT and Paramedic questions, CC-EMTP Course offered through UMBC, medical transport, critical care transport, ICU/CCU care, sedation, and medicine in general.


I have worked as a NYS Paramedic since 1993 for both community based ambulance companies and large commercial agencies. I Have experience as bike team commander, and shift supervisor for a commercial ambulance. As a member of the Disaster team I was deployed to Louisiana for 20 days following hurricane Katrina. I worked along side the county Haz-Mat team as a "Tox-Medic" with advanced training in treating injuries from chemical agents. Besides my experience on the on the ambulance I have worked in a number of hospital based offices including dialysis and a sleep lab.

I started my EMS career as a NYS CFR (Certified First Responder)in 1989, an EMT in 1991, a Paramedic since 1993, and a CCU transport paramedic since 2005. I currently hold certification as a: NYS Paramedic, Critical Care Transport Paramedic, ACLS/CPR/PALS certified. Advanced Haz-Mat Life Support certified (AHLS). In the past I have taught CPR and ACLS to my coworkers and the local community.

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