Heart diseases in children and minors are getting more and more common as we delve deeper into an era of consumerism. Genetics aside, the fact that obesity is on the rise and we have 5-year-olds that weigh more than 70 pounds is proof that bad genetics are not the reason behind heart problems in children.

While this discussion will be carried on later, we first need to identify signs of heart problems in children and understand what can be done to prevent it, and if the situation calls for it, how to deal with it in a manner that preserves life, no matter what.

It might seem macabre at first, discussing something like heart attacks and whatnot with children, but the reality of life demands that sometimes things like this be done, for their own sake. For instance, under questions like ‘how to explain a heart attack to a child’, we regularly see comments of people trying to shield their kids from stuff like that. But the fact is, sooner or later, everybody deals with things like that, and it’s better for the children and their parents that the former know early on.

Heart attack symptoms in children and signs of heart problems in toddlers are the same as the ones experienced by a person in any other age group, however, several important distinctions are there. For instance, in many toddlers and babies, there are many instances of seizures being reported as heart throwing blood clots.

Seizures are related to the central nervous system and have less to do with the circulatory system; however, in children, several cases have been reported wherein a seizure was always accompanied by blood clots being circulated around by the heart. So, understand that several symptoms of heart disease might be different in children and toddlers than in adults. 

Signs Of Heart Problems in Children

Some symptoms and signs are shared, while others are exclusive to children and babies of a certain age. However, all are related to the heart and can be confirmed by some basic and painless tests at the hospital, which gauge the blood flow out of the heart and into the heart, and will also check the oxygen saturation level to make sure oxygen is being delivered to the extremities of the body.

1 . Hypoxia: Hypoxia is a condition where a body part is not receiving enough oxygen via the blood, a sign of interrupted blood supply. It is characterized by a blue tinge on the skin, on the parts of the body affected by non-availability of oxygen.

This is especially visible when the child engages in some excursion, or any physical activity. Because the blood flow increases and the heart rate spikes when a person performs a physical activity and the muscles require more oxygen and blood, therefore the hypoxia and the blue discoloration of the skin will be more visible, which will be an indicator that the body is not receiving oxygen properly and requires a trip to the hospital.

This is also known as cyanosis, and in toddlers and children, it commonly occurs around the lips, fingertips and the limbs, where blood flow is crucial and needs to be maintained.

2. Difficulty in eating, feeding: This is a very common sign of heart issues in babies and in toddlers. A sign of an impending heart problem, toddlers and babies who are breastfed will experience difficulty in eating and feeding and you can notice this with irregular and erratic feeding habits and the child staying constantly hungry.

This is because of inadequate blood flow to the digestive system, which causes it to underperform and starved of oxygen, causing irregular eating and feeding habits. While this may also be a sign of a gastrointestinal problem, a heart checkup cannot be avoided at this stage.

3. Difficulty in breathing/ shortness of breath: One of the most common symptoms of a heart disease in toddlers and children, getting out of breath is unusual for toddlers and young children, since their body requires relatively less oxygen as an adult might.

After a short period of physical activity or excursion, if the toddler or child seems out of breath and the skin is discolored to a tinge of blue, there might be a problem with the circulation system, most likely to be an issue with the pulmonary arterial system, responsible for delivering oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the heart.

There might be other diagnoses for it, but difficulty or shortness of breath in toddlers and children is usually caused by a heart problem or problems with the circulatory system in general.

4. Fatigue/ tiredness: Fatigue and tiredness is a natural process, considering that the body needs rest after a day of activity, especially for younger children, who might sleep longer than eight hours, since their body needs to recuperate for longer.

However, the problem occurs when a child or a toddler gets tired after a relatively short period of physical excursion, which could indicate that fatigue is setting in after an incongruent amount of time spent in physical activity. While this may not normally mean a heart problem, or as a parent your first thought would not go towards a problem in the circulatory system, but it is a physiological possibility that the undue fatigue and tiredness might’ve been caused by an issue with the heart, which affects the blood flow, causing an inadequate amount of oxygen to be circulated, eventually resulting in the body getting tired more often and easily.

If that is the case, a heart checkup and an EEG or ECG might be a good test to gauge the heart’s performance and detect any issues or anomalies within. 

5. Stunted growth: If the heart is not functioning well, or there is a problem with the circulatory system as a holistic entity, the child or toddler’s body will not grow as required, since the body (especially the muscular system) requires oxygen to live, breathe and replicate.

If the oxygen supply is affected and the blood flow isn’t upto measure, then the muscles and the body as a whole will not grow, leading to what is known as stunted growth. This is not a symptom that can be detected early on, but if possible, could have other diagnoses. However, it would be better to have the kid or toddler checked for any anomalies in the heart or the circulatory system. 

ALSO READ: How Long Does It Take For a Heart Attack To Happen?

These are some of the major signs of heart problems in toddlers and children, and must not be ignored as ‘walk it off’ problems. Because kids and toddlers especially are in the growth and development stage of their lives and require a lot of input from all organs, a lot of food and water to grow normally. Any hindrance in the supplication of these requisites might result in stunted growth or any of the aforementioned problems. 

Signs Of Heart Attack in Child/ Heart Attack Symptoms in Children

A heart attack, medically known as a myocardial infarction, is the sudden stoppage of the functioning of the heart due to the death of cardiac muscle. It occurs mainly when blood supply to the heart muscle is severed, causing it to starve off and die, which puts additional strain on the cardiac muscle already functioning.

This strain can cause the heart to shut down, which is what a heart attack constitutes of. If not dealt with immediately, it can cause irreparable damage to the body, including crucial organs like the brain and the lungs, which only results in death.

While heart attacks and heart diseases of this magnitude are common afflictions of the elderly, children and toddlers are extremely susceptible to that as well. It’s to the point where on both ends of the age spectrum, we have people suffering from heart attacks and succumbing to them, therefore, any signs of heart disease or heart attacks in kids and toddlers must not be taken lightly, since they are equally at risk to the issue.

Any of the following signs persists for a considerable amount of time, a trip to the hospital will be crucial and the child might need medical attention immediately. 

Toddlers and babies are more commonly affected by heart attacks, considering that the heart has newly adapted to the outside world and might need to overperform (a resting baby’s heart rate is much higher than a normal, resting adult’s).

This is because the heart needs to overperform, since it is a relatively small organ tasked with the duty of providing blood to a rapidly growing body, which puts strain on the heart, making toddlers and babies more at-risk to it.

Let’s get into signs of heart attack in children and toddlers,

  • Chest pains: Tightness in the chest or pains in the chest radiating to the left arm and the lower jaw are the universal signs of an impending heart attack and could mean that a part of the heart (the cardiac muscle) is facing shortness of blood and oxygen and is therefore strained with the performance. If your child complains of such radiating pain, it might be time to get it checked out at the hospital as soon as possible.
  • Shortness of breath: The circulatory system is closely connected to the respiratory system, which includes the lungs. A sign of a heart attack in the making is shortness of breath, which indicates that gaseous exchange in the alveolus (in the lungs) is not occurring properly, which means that the heart might have to overperform to distribute blood all over the body, which taxes it even more. Such a symptom should not be taken lightly.
  • Fatigue/ tiredness: Fatigue and tiredness is common in toddlers and children, but fatigue setting in after an incongruent amount of physical activity should be cause of concern that the body might not be getting enough oxygen, which could point to some underlying heart problem which could manifest as a heart attack.