We have always wondered about this miracle called life and this eternally amazing journey starts with a pregnant woman who pays regular visits to her gynaecologist and usually looks forward to listening the heartbeats of her little one growing, jumping, kicking inside her. That’s the value our heart or heartbeat has and continues to have till we kick the bucket. This blog will focus on the symptoms of heart problems in children and how we as adults can understand them.
Usually, when we talk about a heart problem or about a person who is suffering from any kind of congenital heart disease or any other heart ailment, the only image that comes to our mind is of a person, rather, an old person who has lived a major share of his life but do you know that this heart problem can affect children as small as new-borns too?
The moment parents hold their little bundle of joy, their anxiety pushes them to thoughts like “Is my baby healthy?’ and a reply to that “Your baby has an ailment related to heart” shatters them. In fact, they go in a state of despair as no parent expects to hear this.
Usually, there are major chances that a baby may develop a heart defect while she is in the uterus. Whatever the mother did during the pregnancy does not contribute to this, and often doctors fail to tell why the defect has happened. Genetics too play an important role here. Meaning, if there is a family history of heart defects. If the child has suffered from any abnormality in his childhood, that can result in a heart disease too.
Firstly, let’s understand what is a heart disease.
- The first one is the congenital heart disease which is a type of heart disease that children are born with and this could happen due to various reasons like heart valve disorders where the aortic valve which usually starts becoming narrow and hence the blood flow starts becoming less.
- The next one is hypoplastic left heart syndrome. This condition occurs when the left side of the heart is not as developed as the right side.
- Next are the ventricular septal defects, atrial septal defects and patent ductus arteriosus which are the disorders of the chambers of the heart.
- Tetralogy of fallot where ordinarily it simply means a hole in the heart; thickening of the right side of the heart; displaced aorta and when the passage between the right ventricle and Pulmonary artery starts becoming narrow.
- In rare conditions, children can get problems with their heart after a viral infection.
What could be the symptoms that a child is suffering from a heart disorder?
Sometimes, a child with heart problem may or may not have visible symptoms whereas sometimes these symptoms develop slowly over time
For a clearer understanding, I have divided children into three categories; babies, toddlers and older children & teenagers.
Symptoms in babies:
- When a child is born, the oxygen levels of the child should be the same as a healthy adult but in a situation when the child starts receiving a lesser oxygen than normal, the skin starts appearing bluish. This condition is called a Cyanosis.
- When the baby is finding herself incapable of feeling well and accordingly is not growing well.
- Babies if they start breathing faster than the normal and it appears that they are panting while breathing.
- Too much sweating could also be a symptom.
Symptoms in toddlers:
- Shortness of breath
- Being fatigued
- Unable to keep up with children of his/her age
- Not having a well-developed vocabulary
- Not being able to describe his/her feelings
- Passing out
Symptoms in older children and teenagers:
- Passing out while exercising excessively
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
If the child shows any of the above symptoms, the parent needs to take the child to the doctor. A doctor who treats children is known as the paediatrician or here, paediatric cardiologist (children’s heart specialist). He then performs a few tests to diagnose heart defects, most of which are not scary and done quickly:
- A chest X-ray
- Ultrasound scan
The treatment for the child’s heart defect will depend on the cause of the problem. Most heart defects self-cure themselves as time passes, and some with medicine. Sometimes surgery or other treatments may be necessary. In some cases, the child may need more than one treatment. Some parents worry that their child might collapse suddenly. Fortunately, this is too rare for children. Most children with heart problems are successfully cured, and many live actively and healthily.
It is important the parents understand their child’s heart disease, treatment, and prevention of complications to promote a much better and successful health related behaviour in their child.