Does Your Baby Have an Undetected Heart Disorder?

Published on: 01/29/2019

When a baby enters the world, parents eagerly count fingers and toes and listen for a robust cry. And when all appears well, the parents count their blessings.

With the help of pediatricians and parenting guides, moms and dads soon become experts at identifying potential health issues in their growing children. But not all parents are aware of signs and symptoms of heart disorders, which occur in eight of every 1,000 babies born.

“Congenital heart defects are often identified while a child is still developing inside the mother or immediately after birth,” said Anthony Rossi, Director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

“Unfortunately, some heart conditions are difficult to detect during a newborn physical.Therefore, parents should verify that a pulse oximetry screening is performed in hospital before their baby is discharged home and watch for signs and symptoms of a heart condition – such as fast breathing or a blue discoloration of skin – and report any observations to their child’s doctor.

Congenital heart conditions vary widely and can include holes within the heart, malfunctioning heart valves or irregularities with blood vessels. Most can be successfully treated through surgical measures or catheter-based interventions at a center that specializes in congenital heart conditions, such as The Heart Program at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Condition in a Newborn

Babies with a heart condition may:

  • Become short of breath or sweaty when feeding
  • Develop a blue tint to the gums, tongue and extremities
  • Sleep more often than expected

Signs of Heart Trouble in Toddlers and Young Children

Visit your pediatrician if your child:

  • Has difficulty keeping up with other children when playing
  • Gets winded during activity sooner than other children
  • Perspires more than other children during activity
  • Turns blue around the gums or tongue
  • Faints

Older Children and Teens

For older children and teens, parents should watch for the same symptoms as younger children (above) as well as:

  • Dizziness or fainting with exercise
  • Chest pain with exercise
  • Exercise intolerance or early fatigue

All children who exhibit some of these symptoms may not have heart conditions. For example, some children simply perspire more than others. And dizziness may be an indication that your child isn’t drinking enough fluids. Nonetheless, report these to your pediatrician so that any symptoms can be fully evaluated.


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