An arrhythmia is an abnormal heartbeat. Arrhythmias in children, including missed beats and changes in heart rate speed, are a sign that something is wrong with the internal electrical system that regulates your child's heart. You'll need the services of a pediatric cardiologist to confirm the diagnosis and suggest treatment. Seek help if you recognize these signs of arrhythmia. Read on to learn more about it.
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Pay attention when your child mentions that his heart is "beating funny." Most people experience occasional missed beats or flutters, but tell your child's doctor if this is so noticeable that your child mentions it. One irregularity that needs immediate treatment is atrial fibrillation, which often includes a rapid heartbeat.
Be aware if your child's heart rate is faster than normal for her age. A newborn's heart can beat 140 times a minutes; an older child's resting heart rate may range from 50 to 100 beats a minute. Prolonged rapid rates, called tachycardia, are one of the most common arrhythmias children suffer, and can have several causes-some serious. Watch for rapid, shallow breathing, another sign of rapid heart rate.
Learn if your child suffers from episodes of a slow heart rate or bradycardia. Although not as common as tachycardia, bradycardia may result in the heart not pumping enough blood to the body. Again, defining what is too slow depends upon a child's age. A baby's heart rate should not be less than 80 beats a minute.
Notice if your child feels weak or dizzy without cause. Children with sick sinus syndrome might feel tired and light-headed. Episodes of tachycardia and bradycardia may occur with this condition that requires treatment.
Notify your doctor if your child has ever fainted. Fainting may be a sign of sick sinus syndrome or Long QT Syndrome, in which an ECG (EKG) shows prolonged intervals. Long QT syndrome maybe be inherited, but should be identified medically.
Watch your child at play. If he shows trouble keeping up with other children and needs frequent rests, heart block may be to blame. When the heart's electrical impulses can't move from the upper to the lower chambers of the heart, a person suffers from heart block. If a heart rate drops too low or symptoms like fainting develop, then a pacemaker must be surgically inserted.
Schedule regular check-ups for your child. Some types of cardiac arrhythmias don't show any evidence of symptoms. One of these is Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, in which an abnormal pathway lies between the atria and ventricles. Medication can improve this condition, but sometimes surgery is needed.
Tips and warnings
- A sinus arrhythmia is normal and occurs when the heart rate speeds up a few beats when breathing in. Sinus tachycardia (increased heart rate) may happen with fever or exercise. No treatment is needed as long as the heart rate returns to normal.
- Some prescribed and over-the-counter medications worsen arrhythmias. Tell your doctor about all medication your child takes.
- Surgery to repair heart defects can lead to post-operative arrhythmias-heart rates that are either too fast or too slow.
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