Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension) in Children

Also known as: hypotension.

What is low blood pressure?

Low blood pressure is often perceived as preferable to high blood pressure. However, there are situations where blood pressure can become dangerously low and cause symptoms. This typically occurs when the top (systolic) reading is lower than 90 mm Hg, and the bottom blood pressure (diastolic) is lower than 60 mm Hg.

What are the types of low blood pressure?

Low blood pressure can be classified under a few different types:

  • Orthostatic hypotension. This type of low blood pressure is present when blood pressure drops when you go from sitting or lying down to a standing position. It’s related to dehydration, pregnancy and certain medical conditions and is more common in older adults than children.
  • Neurally mediated hypotension. This form of low blood pressure is more common in children and young adults. This may be present when blood pressure drops after standing for long periods of time.
  • Postprandial hypotension. This type of hypotension occurs when blood pressure drops a couple of hours after eating. It’s common in older adults with high blood pressure or conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.
  • Multiple system atrophy with orthostatic hypotension. This condition is also known as Shy-Drager syndrome and affects functions such as breathing, digestion and heart rate. People with it often develop very high blood pressure when lying down.

What causes low blood pressure?

A number of different situations and medical conditions can cause low blood pressure. These include:

Certain medications can also cause low blood pressure.

What are the symptoms of low blood pressure?

Common symptoms of low blood pressure include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting

In more severe instances, hypotension can be life threatening and cause:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Heart problems
  • Shock

When should you see a doctor about low blood pressure?

If low blood pressure is accompanied by symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating or nausea, it’s worth a visit with your health care provider. If you experience fainting, confusion, very pale skin (pallor), rapid, shallow breathing or a weak, rapid pulse, seek emergency medical attention immediately.

How is low blood pressure diagnosed?

The following tests may be used to diagnose low blood pressure:

  • Blood pressure test. Measuring the blood pressure, of course, is step one in identifying if low blood pressure is present. These readings may be required on a regular basis to monitor blood pressure.
  • Blood tests. Blood tests can be used to identify other underlying or contributing medical conditions.
  • Electrocardiogram. Also known as ECG or EKG, this test measures the electrical activity of the heart.
  • Tilt table test. This test involves strapping the patient to a table and then moving it to mimic the movement a patient might experience when low blood pressure occurs. For example, it can move from a lying to a standing position or vice versa.

What are low blood pressure treatment options?

Some potential treatments for hypotension are:

  • medication for lowering blood pressure
  • changing medication regimens
  • drinking more water
  • wearing compression stockings
  • getting more salt in the patient's diet

How can you prevent low blood pressure?

Several steps can be helpful in preventing low blood pressure or the symptoms of low blood pressure, including the following:

  • Eat smaller, low-carbohydrate meals to prevent sharp changes in blood pressure after eating.
  • Exercise regularly and aim for at least 30 minutes every day.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Drink more water.
  • Move slowly and gently from lying or sitting positions to standing.
  • Ask your health care provider if coffee or tea with breakfast may help.

Reviewed by: Danyal M Khan, MD

This page was last updated on: February 23, 2024 10:10 AM