Heart Disease in Children

Table of Contents

Our hearts are like our body’s engines, keeping us going day in and day out. And when it comes to our little ones, nothing’s more special than their hearts – not just for pumping love, but for staying healthy.
You might think that heart diseases are something grown-ups deal with, but guess what?
Kids can have them, too!
It might sound scary, but don’t worry. We’re here to help you understand what kinds of heart problems kids can have, how doctors determine what’s going on, and how to improve things.
In this blog, we will examine the different types of heart problems that can affect kids. We’ll explain how doctors find out if there’s a problem and what they can do to help. Whether you’re a parent, a caregiver, or just curious, we want to ensure you have the info you need to support those brave little hearts. Let’s dive in and learn together how to keep those tiny tickers strong and healthy!

Heart Diseases in Children

Heart disease is a broad term that refers to any condition that affects the structure or function of the heart.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of diagnosing and treating heart problems in children, let’s talk about some of the most common types:

Types of Heart Disease in Children

Heart disease in children can be classified into three main types:

  1. Congenital heart defects
  2. Acquired heart disease
  3. Arrhythmias

1. Congenital Heart Defects

Congenital heart defects are problems with the heart’s structure that are present at birth. They occur when the heart or blood vessels near the heart do not develop normally during fetal development. Congenital heart defects can affect the way blood flows through the heart and to the rest of the body.

Congenital heart defects are the most common birth defects, affecting approximately 1 in every 100 newborns.

  • About 97% of babies born with a non-critical CHD are expected to survive to at least one year of age.
  • At least 15% of CHDs are associated with genetic conditions.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Heart Disease

Congenital heart defects are the most common birth defects, affecting approximately 1 in every 100 newborns.

Some examples of congenital heart defects are:​

  • Atrial septal defect (ASD): A hole in the wall that separates the two upper chambers of the heart (atria).
  • Ventricular septal defect (VSD): A hole in the wall that separates the two lower chambers of the heart (ventricles).
  • Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF): A combination of four defects: a VSD, a narrowing of the pulmonary valve or artery, an enlarged right ventricle, and a displaced aorta.
  • Coarctation of the aorta: A narrowing of the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the body (aorta).
  • Transposition of the great arteries: A condition where the two main arteries that carry blood from the heart to the lungs and the body are switched.

Some congenital heart defects are mild and may not cause any symptoms or complications. Others are more severe and may require surgery or other interventions to correct them. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of congenital disability, affecting about 1% of newborns.

2. Acquired Heart Disease

Acquired heart disease is a type of heart disease that develops after birth, usually as a result of an infection, an immune system disorder, or an inflammation. Acquired heart disease can damage the heart muscle, the valves, or the lining of the heart. Some examples of acquired heart disease are:

  • Rheumatic heart disease: A condition where the heart valves are damaged by rheumatic fever, an inflammatory disease caused by a streptococcal infection.
  • Kawasaki disease: A rare condition that causes inflammation of the blood vessels, including the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle.
  • Myocarditis: An inflammation of the heart muscle, usually caused by a viral infection.
  • Pericarditis: An inflammation of the sac that surrounds the heart (pericardium), usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection.

Acquired heart disease can affect the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively and may lead to heart failure, arrhythmias, or other complications. Acquired heart disease is less common than congenital heart defects, but it can affect children of any age.

3. Arrhythmias

Arrhythmias are abnormal heart rhythms that occur when the electrical signals that control the heartbeat are disrupted. Arrhythmias can cause the heart to beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly. Some examples of arrhythmias are:

  • Tachycardia: A condition where the heart beats faster than normal, usually more than 100 beats per minute in children.
  • Bradycardia: A condition where the heart beats slower than normal, usually less than 60 beats per minute in children.
  • Atrial fibrillation: A condition where the atria quiver instead of contracting normally, causing an irregular and fast heartbeat.
  • Ventricular fibrillation: A condition where the ventricles quiver instead of contracting normally, causing a chaotic and ineffective heartbeat.

Arrhythmias can affect the blood flow to the organs and tissues and may cause symptoms such as dizziness, fainting, or chest pain. Some arrhythmias are harmless and do not require treatment, while others are serious and may lead to cardiac arrest or sudden death. Arrhythmias can be caused by congenital heart defects, acquired heart disease, electrolyte imbalances, medications, or other factors.

Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease in Children

The signs and symptoms of heart disease in children may vary depending on the type, severity, and duration of the condition. However, some general signs and symptoms that may indicate a heart problem in children are:

  • Fatigue: Feeling tired or weak after normal activities or exercise or having difficulty staying awake or alert.
  • Poor growth: Failing to gain weight or height or having a low body mass index (BMI) for age and gender.
  • Cyanosis: Having a bluish or purple color of the skin, lips, or nails due to low oxygen levels in the blood.
  • Edema: Having swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen due to fluid retention in the tissues.
  • Shortness of breath: Having difficulty breathing or wheezing, especially during exertion or lying down.
  • Chest pain: Having pain, pressure, or discomfort in the chest, which may radiate to the neck, jaw, or arms.
  • Fainting: Losing consciousness or awareness due to a sudden drop in blood pressure or blood flow to the brain.
  • Palpitations: Feeling the heart beating fast, hard, or irregularly, or feeling skipped or extra beats.
  • Murmur: Hearing a whooshing or swishing sound when listening to the heart with a stethoscope due to turbulent blood flow through the heart or blood vessels.

If your child has any of these signs and symptoms, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible, as they may indicate a serious or life-threatening condition. Do not ignore or delay seeking medical attention, as early diagnosis and treatment can improve the outcome and prognosis of heart disease in children.

Heart Disease Symptom

Causes and Risk Factors of Heart Disease in Children

The causes and risk factors of heart disease in children may differ depending on the type of heart disease. However, some common causes and risk factors that may contribute to the development of heart disease in children are:

  • Genetic factors: Having a family history of heart disease or inheriting a gene mutation or a chromosomal abnormality that affects the heart or blood vessels, such as Down syndrome, Turner syndrome, or Marfan syndrome.
  • Maternal factors: Having a mother who had certain infections, diseases, or exposures during pregnancy, such as rubella, diabetes, lupus, or alcohol, drugs, or tobacco.
  • Environmental factors: Being exposed to certain chemicals, pollutants, or radiation that may harm the heart or blood vessels, such as lead, mercury, or ionizing radiation.
  • Infectious factors: Having a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection that may damage the heart muscle, valves, or lining, such as streptococcus, coxsackievirus, or candida.
  • Immune factors: Having an autoimmune disorder or an allergic reaction that may cause inflammation of the heart or blood vessels, such as rheumatic fever, Kawasaki disease, or anaphylaxis.
  • Lifestyle factors: Having unhealthy habits or behaviors that may increase the risk of heart disease, such as poor diet, lack of exercise, obesity, or smoking.

To prevent or reduce the risk of heart disease in children, you should follow some tips and advice, such as:

  • Prenatal care: Getting regular check-ups, tests, and screenings during pregnancy and avoiding any infections, diseases, or exposures that may harm the fetus.
  • Vaccination: Get your child vaccinated against certain diseases that may cause heart problems, such as measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, and influenza.
  • Healthy diet: Provide your child with a balanced and nutritious diet that is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, salt, and sugar and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • Physical activity: Encouraging your child to be physically active for at least 60 minutes a day and limiting their screen time and sedentary behavior.
  • Weight management: Monitoring your child’s weight and BMI and helping them maintain a healthy weight for their age and height.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Heart Disease in Children

The diagnosis and treatment of heart disease in children may depend on the type, severity, and duration of the condition. However, some common methods and tests used to diagnose and treat heart disease in children are:
Medical history: Asking the child and the parents or caregivers about the child’s symptoms, health problems, family history, and lifestyle habits.

  • Physical examination: Checking the child’s vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and oxygen saturation. Listening to the child’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope and looking for any signs of cyanosis, edema, or murmur.
  • Laboratory tests: Take a blood sample from the child and analyze it for any signs of infection, inflammation, anemia, or electrolyte imbalance. Performing a throat culture or a rapid antigen test to detect streptococcal infection, which may cause rheumatic fever.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): Attaching electrodes to the child’s chest, arms, and legs and recording the electrical activity of the heart. Looking for any abnormalities in the heart rate, rhythm, or conduction.
  • Echocardiogram (echo): Using a device that emits sound waves (ultrasound) to create a moving picture of the heart and its structures. Measuring the size, shape, and function of the heart chambers, valves, and vessels. Detecting any defects, damage, or blockages in the heart or blood vessels.
  • Cardiac catheterization: Inserting a thin, flexible tube (catheter) into a blood vessel in the groin or arm and guiding it to the heart or blood vessels. Injecting a dye (contrast) into the catheter and taking X-ray images (angiogram) to visualize the blood flow and pressure in the heart and blood vessels. Performing interventions, such as closing a hole, widening a narrowing, or implanting a device, if needed.

The treatment options and strategies for heart disease in children may vary depending on the type, severity, and duration of the condition. However, some common treatment options and strategies for heart disease in children are:


Prescribing drugs can help control the symptoms, prevent complications, or treat the underlying cause of the heart disease. Some examples of medications used for heart disease in children are:

  • Diuretics: Drugs that help the body get rid of excess fluid and salt and reduce the workload on the heart.
  • Beta-blockers: Drugs that slow down the heart rate, lower the blood pressure, and reduce the oxygen demand on the heart.
  • Antiarrhythmics: Drugs that help restore or maintain a normal heart rhythm and prevent or treat arrhythmias.
  • Antibiotics: Drugs that kill or stop the growth of bacteria and prevent or treat infections that may cause or worsen heart disease.
  • Anticoagulants: Drugs that prevent or dissolve blood clots and reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack.


Operating to repair or replace a damaged or defective part of the heart or blood vessels. Some examples of surgeries used for heart disease in children are:

  • Septal defect closure: A procedure that closes a hole in the wall between the atria or the ventricles using a patch, a plug, or a device.
  • Valve repair or replacement: A procedure that fixes or replaces a faulty or diseased valve using a tissue or a mechanical valve.
  • Tetralogy of Fallot repair: A procedure that corrects the four defects of TOF by closing the VSD, enlarging the pulmonary valve or artery, reducing the right ventricular hypertrophy, and repositioning the aorta.
  • Coarctation of the aorta repair: A procedure that widens the narrowed part of the aorta using a balloon, a stent, or a graft.
  • Transposition of the great arteries correction: A procedure that switches the positions of the aorta and the pulmonary artery so that they are connected to the correct ventricles.


Your child’s well-being is of utmost importance, and being informed about potential heart issues can make a significant difference in their health and quality of life.

If you suspect that your child may be suffering from a heart condition, it’s imperative to consult with a pediatrician or a pediatric cardiologist. Aims Healthcare offers doctor-on-call in Dubai, home health care in Dubai, and lab test at-home services, making it easier for you to access essential medical care without the hassle of visiting a hospital or clinic. It provides you with the convenience of receiving medical care in the comfort of your own home, making it easier to manage your child’s health, especially if they have a heart condition.

Prioritizing the heart health of our children is of utmost importance. By staying informed about the types of heart diseases that can affect them, seeking timely diagnosis and treatment, and taking advantage of convenient healthcare services like those offered by Aims Healthcare, you can ensure that your children have the best chance for a healthy and happy future.

Frequently Asked Questions

Provide an overview of prevalent heart conditions affecting children, such as congenital heart defects, arrhythmias, and cardiomyopathies.

Heart disease in children is identified via echocardiograms, electrocardiograms (ECGs or EKGs), chest X-rays, and other imaging studies. Explain the importance of early detection for effective treatment.

Enumerate the signs and symptoms that parents and caregivers should be aware of, such as difficulty in breathing, poor growth, fatigue, and abnormal heart rhythms.

The treatment modalities may include medication, surgery, catheter-based interventions, and lifestyle modifications.

Parents and caregivers can provide emotional support and create a nurturing environment for a child with heart disease. Discuss lifestyle considerations, the importance of medication adherence, and the role of regular follow-up appointments in maintaining a child’s heart health.

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