If your child has been diagnosed with arrhythmia, or an abnormal heart rhythm, you’re likely quite concerned. That’s understandable.
Learning about arrhythmias can help you understand what your child’s doctor has told you. It’s also the best first step in caring for your child, as you work with your pediatrician to determine the best treatment.
Normal ranges for children
Usually, a child’s heart beats (or heart rhythm) regularly. That is, the heart muscle pumps blood in a synchronized, uniformed way, at regular intervals.
For children as well as for adults, the heart rate, or number of times a heart beats each minute, can vary. Exercise, for example, makes the heart beat more often, while the heart rate slows down during sleep.
The “normal” heart rate for an older child or teenager at rest is about 70 beats per minute. In an infant, the heart beats 140 times a minute on average.
Some arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats, are normal. For example, in many children, the heart rate speeds up while breathing in, then slows back down when exhaling. This heartbeat variation with breathing is called sinus arrhythmia, and it’s no cause for concern.
If your child's doctor discovers an arrhythmia, he or she will likely perform tests to learn more. You could also be referred to a pediatric cardiologist, who specializes in heart issues in children.
Arrhythmias and medical history
Arrhythmias may occur at any age, although the condition is far more common in adults.
Many times, children with arrhythmias experience no symptoms, or they can’t articulate the problem. Often, these heart rhythm abnormalities are revealed as part of a child’s periodic wellness exam, or through another encounter with your child’s doctor.
Arrhythmias are investigated methodically, much like other health questions. Your pediatrician will likely inquire about your child’s medical history to understand everything possible about the arrhythmia, its origins and its implications.
You may be asked questions such as:
- Is your child aware of unusual heartbeats?
- Does anything bring on the arrhythmia? Is there anything your child or you can do to make it stop?
- How fast is your child’s heartbeat?
- Does your child feel weak, lightheaded or dizzy?
- Has your child ever fainted?
Your child’s doctor may also ask about prescribed and over-the-counter medicines because some may make arrhythmias worse.
By knowing all that you can about arrhythmias, you can take an active role in your child’s care. And rest assured, several treatment options are available. Together, you and your child’s doctor can determine the right course of action.