If your child has been diagnosed with arrhythmia, an abnormal heart rhythm, you’re likely concerned. That’s understandable.
Learning about arrhythmias can help you understand what your child’s doctor has told you. It’s the first step in caring for your child, as you work with your pediatrician to determine the best treatment option.
Normal ranges for children
A child’s heart usually 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 resting heart rate for an older child or teenager at rest is 60 to 100 beats per minute. In an infant, the heart beats 100 to 190 times a minute on average.
Some arrhythmias are normal. 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, they 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 more common in adults.
Children with arrhythmias often experience no symptoms, or they can’t articulate the problem. These abnormal heart rhythms may be revealed as part of a child’s periodic wellness exam or other visit with your child’s health care professional.
Arrhythmias are investigated much like other health conditions. Your child's pediatrician will likely inquire about your child’s medical history to understand everything possible about the arrhythmia, its origins and implications.
You may be asked questions such as:
- Is your child aware of unusual heartbeats?
- How long has this been happening?
- 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. Together, you and your child’s doctor can determine the best treatment option.