Heart disease can affect even the littlest hearts, which is why it is so crucial to understand and recognize some of the more common cardiac symptoms in children.
Heart problems can be separated into two categories:
1. Congenital heart disease: Congenital heart disease can be lifelong and is when one or multiple heart defects are present at birth.
2. Acquired heart disease: Acquired heart disease develops over time as a child gets older.
While many heart conditions in kids and teens cannot be prevented, there are certain symptoms parents can keep an eye out for, in addition to steps that can be taken for earlier intervention and improved outcomes for their children.
“There are three common heart-related symptoms in children that typically cause concern for parents,” says Robert English, MD, a pediatric interventional cardiologist with Wolfson Children’s Terry Heart Institute. “In most cases, children with these symptoms don’t actually have heart problems. But if parents do suspect something is wrong, it’s better they trust their gut, and their child’s heart, and consult their child’s pediatrician, who can conduct a full medical evaluation and decide whether a referral to a pediatric cardiologist is appropriate.”
Signs of Heart Problems in Children
To help parents better understand what to watch out for in terms of heart disease, read on for warning signs and some of the more common symptoms your child may be experiencing.
1. Chest pain. It’s not uncommon for children to complain about having chest pain on occasion. In fact, chest pain is rarely associated with an actual heart problem. Watch out for red flags by asking your child the following questions:
- Does the pain feel stabbing and sharp or heavy and squeezing?
- Is the pain the worst when you’re exercising or moving, when you’re resting, or both?
- Do you have any pain when taking a deep breath?
2. Heart murmur. A heart murmur is the sound our blood makes while flowing through the body. Though some murmurs may indicate a heart problem, most do not. Does your child or teenager have any of the following symptoms?
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling lightheaded
- Frequent episodes of rapid heart rate
- A heartbeat that feels funny or fluttery
3. Dizziness or fainting. Fainting is often accompanied by feelings of dizziness. Fainting can commonly be caused by:
- Sudden change in body position
If your child gets dizzy or suddenly faints, lie them down on their back to quickly restore consciousness. But be on the watch for these additional symptoms or situations that could indicate a heart problem:
- Heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat
- Dizziness or fainting that results from exercise
- Having a family history of frequent fainting or even sudden death
Listen to Dr. English discuss this topic in more detail on Baptist Health’s podcast, Baptist Health Radio.
The pediatric cardiology, electrophysiology, imaging, cardiac intensive care, cardiac anesthesiology and heart surgery teams with Wolfson Children’s C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry Heart Institute treat a full range of pediatric cardiac conditions, from defects present at birth to heart rhythm disorders. To learn more, call 904.202.8550 or visit wolfsonchildrens.com/heart.