Health + Wellness

Could Your Child Have a Heart Defect? Know the Warning Signs


heart defects

Heart defects are often – but not always – detected at birth, so it’s important to pay attention when a child gets dizzy, passes out or says their heart is “beeping.”

These and other warning signs, such as an apparent change in fitness, shouldn’t be overlooked, an expert says.

Evaluating a child who has these symptoms is important to ensure nothing is missed that could become life-threatening, according to Dr. Stephen Cyran, pediatric cardiologist with Penn State Health Children’s Heart Group, in Pennsylvania.

“Although 80% to 85% of structural heart defects are often caught before or at birth, some don’t present themselves until later, so it’s important to tell your child’s pediatrician or family doctor about any changes you or your child notice,” Cyran said in a Penn State news release.

“Unlike adults who often self-refer to a cardiologist, the referral to the pediatric cardiologist almost always comes through the pediatrician or family physician,” he notes.

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What warrants a referral to a pediatric cardiologist?

The top three reasons for referral to Cyran’s office are a heart murmur, dizziness/passing out, and chest pain.

Causes for the symptoms can vary. A feeling of “beeping” could be an irregular heartbeat because a child was born with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, an extra electrical connection in the heart. This can damage the heart over time. However, preventive treatments can help, Cyran says.

Symptoms

Exercise intolerance could be an early sign of a hole in the wall between the two chambers of the heart. Known as atrial septal defect,

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