One in every 100 Australian children suffers from heart problems, which may be a defect or congenital (present from birth).
Heart defects are usually treatable with medication, surgery, and other medical procedures. Most interventions for heart problems are simple and quick, and more importantly, it gives children a chance to lead a normal and full life with little to no restrictions.
Understand Common Heart Conditions in Children
Heart disease is a broad term covering many heart conditions in both adults and children. Narrowing the focus to the little ones, it still encompasses a wide range of health problems that is either severe or potentially life-threatening.
The sad truth is heart problem does not only occur in adults and the elderly. Cardiac disease can also happen to newborn babies and kids.
While some heart defects are simple and do not require treatments, others seem more complex and will need few surgeries over the tears.
Any signs or symptoms of heart problems, parents must seek immediate medical attention to get an accurate and timely diagnosis. Early intervention often leads to effective treatment plans.
Below are common heart conditions in children.
Congenital heart disease
Congenital heart disease (CHD) is a type of heart disease for children caused by defects at birth. In Australia, an estimated 2,400 babies born each year have CHD.
The condition may have a long-term effect on the child’s health but is usually treatable with surgery, catheter procedures, medication, and even heart transplants. In some cases, the child will require lifelong monitoring and continuous treatment.
Arrhythmias are the abnormal rhythm of the heart, causing this organ to pump less efficiently.
Several types of arrhythmias may occur in children, including tachycardia (fast heart rate), bradycardia (slow heart rate), long Q-T Syndrome (LQTS), and Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome (WPW syndrome)
The common symptoms of this condition may include general weakness, fatigue, sudden dizziness, and loss of consciousness. The treatment will depend on the type of arrhythmia and how it affects the child’s health.
Kawasaki disease is a rare condition in Australia, with fewer than 300 cases every year. It mostly affects children under the age of 5 and causes inflammation in the blood vessels found in the hands, feet, mouth, lips, and throat. Other symptoms also include fever and swelling within the lymph nodes.
Children who have Kawasaki disease often require lifelong monitoring to keep an eye on heart health.
Heart murmurs are sounds, such as whooshing or swishing, made by blood circulating in the heart chambers or valves. While it is often harmless, some may indicate an underlying cardiovascular problem.
Heart murmurs are often caused by coronary heart disease, fever, or anemia. Upon detecting the sound, the doctor will require additional tests to ensure heart health.
Non-emergent heart murmurs usually resolve independently, but they may require additional treatment if a heart problem causes it.
Viral infections, such as respiratory illness or flu, can affect a child’s heart health. It can result in myocarditis, affecting the heart’s ability to pump blood throughout the body.
Viral infections relating to the heart rarely show symptoms. But when they do, they are similar to flu-like symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue.
The treatment for viral infections may involve medications such as antiviral drugs.
How to Get Diagnosis
Several tests help diagnose heart problems, most of which are simple, quick, and painless.
- Chest Xray
- ECG (electrocardiogram)
- Ultrasound scan (such as an echocardiogram or an echo)
In some cases, the child is given some sedation to make them feel sleepy while doing the procedures. It is presented in the form of a liquid drink or a small squirt on the nose using a syringe. No needles are mostly involved.
Treatment for Heart Problems
The treatment for heart defects in children will depend on the cause. While most resolve by themselves over time, so can be fixed with further treatment.
In some cases, the child may require a combination of medicine, surgery, and other medical procedures.
Heart problems are one of the leading causes of child death in Australia, accounting for more than 30% of fatalities.
The treatment will mostly depend on the cause of the problem and may include the use of medications, surgery, or other medical procedures.
Children with minor heart defects often live a long and normal life with only monitoring from time to time. Early intervention and treatment help children lead normal lives with little or no restrictions on what they can do.
See our course page to learn more.