By Dr. Smita Mishra, Pediatric Cardiology
Heart diseases in children are not uncommon. Such diseases can be divided into very well defined categories. These are the acquired and congenital type of child heart disease. Congenital heart disease in children refers to conditions that have existed in them since before birth, usually due to some error during the development of the heart. These heart defect may be associated with other congenital defects. All of the Congenital heart defects may not cause problems and many of them may co-exist for life without any harm. Few of them may even disappear over the period of time.
Acquired conditions, on the other hand, are heart diseases that happen to children over the course of their lifetime.
Pediatric cardiology is the branch of medicine that diagnoses and works to cure heart diseases in infants and children.
Symptoms: how do you know if your child has a heart problem?
Babies born with a significant heart defect may show the following symptoms:
- They may have rapid breathing and sometimes you may find chest pulsatile.
- You may feel that baby needs rest after a few minutes of sucking while feeding on the breast (suck-rest-suck cycle) and take more time to feed.
- The baby may have excessive perspiration usually during the feed or crying or even on rest.
- Some of them may show excessive inconsolable cry.
- During the first 6-8 months of life, they may have Recurrent pneumonia
- Some of the babies are born with bluish discolouration of nails, tongue, lips also known as blue babies.
- These babies may have episodic cry which may increase the bluishness of the baby.
- Few of babies may present with sudden collapse or very high or low heart rate.
Older children may present with the following symptoms :
• She/he will feel tired even after a little bit of exercise, which is uncommon among children and young people. The child may also experience dizziness or shortness of breath.
• She/he may complain of discomfort or pain in the chest after strenuous activity, or sometimes due to other triggers.
• She/he may become unconscious after the bout of exercise as well.
Diseases that are covert generally are not easily detectable due to lack of symptoms and are therefore more dangerous. These not only affect children but also adults. Some of these are conditions that begin in infancy and carry over well into adolescence and adulthood.
The role of a pediatric cardiologist
A pediatric cardiologist, a doctor who has had professional training in treating children’s heart diseases, can be of great help if an emergency strikes your kid. They help both diagnose and treat your child. They are proficient in the use of an advanced medical technique involving MRIs, CT scans and the like to test for the underlying disease, and can use sufficiently well techniques like heart catheterization to treat the diseases detected. Therefore, if your child exhibits any symptoms ever, make sure to have the contact of a vet always handy.
Heart diseases in children can be painful and difficult to treat, but with intervention and diagnosis at the proper time, many lives can be saved. Be sure to check your child intermittently for symptoms if they have ever displayed symptoms in the past, and work on improving your family’s overall lifestyle in the meanwhile.