With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s natural that we think about hearts, flowers, and chocolates. But what about heart health, and in particular pediatric heart health? That might not be something that enters your thoughts often, but it is something you should be aware of.
Most children are born with healthy hearts. As defined by the American Heart Association (AHA), this means they have four favorable health behaviors (related to smoking, BMI, physical activity, and healthy diet status) and three favorable health factors (total cholesterol, blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose levels). Certainly, as children age, these issues could become challenges, but for infants, if they have heart issues, they are usually inherited, and most resolve themselves naturally. In Missouri, all newborns must be screened for congenital heart defects, and all newborns are screened twice for congenital heart disease through the anatomy ultrasound prenatally and the CCHD postnatally.
Types of Pediatric Heart Health Issues
Serious congenital heart defects are typically diagnosed in utero, shortly after birth, or in the first few months of life. Less serious issues may present themselves later in childhood. Either way, you should let your pediatrician know if you see any differences in your child, including:
- Changes in their skin color: blue, pale, or gray.
- Rapid breathing, shortness of breath, trouble breathing, or tiredness after feedings or activity.
- Swelling in extremities or around the eyes.
During the early months of your child’s life, they’ll visit the doctor regularly, which allows your pediatrician to spot any issues. However, if you have any concerns about your child’s health, contact your pediatrician right away.
Some of the pediatric heart health issues your child may experience include:
Heart murmurs are the top concern for children and parents. They are sounds caused by blood flowing through the heart and can be faint to very loud. In most cases, murmurs are no cause for alarm and will go away with age. Sometimes, though, they are an indication of a bigger pediatric heart health issue, so it’s important to have your doctor listen to your child’s heart at every well-child visit.
An arrhythmia is a change in the rhythm of the heartbeat. Many times, they are not a cause for alarm and a natural component of pediatric heart health. Your pediatrician will follow your child at regular check-ups to ensure the situation resolves itself, which it usually does.
Cyanosis refers to a bluish-purple hue of the skin, which is caused by an insufficient level of oxygen in the blood. This discoloration is most notable where the skin is thin, including lips, mouth, earlobes, and nails. It can indicate a problem with the heart or lungs. While cyanosis often disappears naturally, it may be present at birth because of a heart malformation. If there is an underlying reason for the skin discoloration, treatment may be necessary.
Congenital Heart Defects
Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). They can range from mild to severe, and one in four babies has a heart defect severe enough to warrant surgery or other treatments in the first year of life. Some congenital pediatric heart health issues include:
- Atrial Septal Defect
- Atrioventricular Septal Defect
- Coarctation of the Aorta
- Double-outlet Right Ventricle
- d-Transposition of the Great Arteries
- Ebstein Anomaly
- Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome
- Interrupted Aortic Arch
- Pulmonary Atresia
- Single Ventricle
- Tetralogy of Fallot
- Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return
- Tricuspid Atresia
- Truncus Arteriosus
- Ventricular Septal Defect
Thankfully, there are several treatments doctors can use to help children with severe pediatric heart health issues live full lives.
Concerns about Your Child’s Heart?
While the month of love leads us to focus on pediatric heart health, we always want our children to thrive. It’s imperative that your infants and children see their pediatrician regularly during those first few months and years of life. In most cases, children are healthy and happy, but if any concerns arise, it’s best to address them early.
We love seeing your family at Community Choice Pediatrics! If you’re looking for a new pediatrician, contact us to make an appointment.