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Are children susceptible to arrhythmia? Things parents must know

Parents must keep a watch on their child’s heartbeat and monitor it to detect abnormally slow or fast beats, especially in the absence of rigorous physical activity

By: Parenting Desk | New Delhi |
November 25, 2020 6:38:22 pm
arrhythmia, what is arrhythmia, arrhythmia in children, what parents should know about arrhythmia in kids, parenting, indian express newsArrhythmias can be caused as a result of internal factors, such as a disease of the heart muscle itself (cardiomyopathy) or a heart defect the child had when he or she was born (congenital heart disease). (Source: Pixabay)

By Dr Lawrence Jesuraj

An arrhythmia is a condition which indicates abnormal heart rhythm. It may be a heart rate that is too fast, too slow or irregular. Even though this condition is commonly believed to occur in the elderly, children may experience it too. Therefore, it becomes very critical for parents to be aware of this condition and its treatment. While in most cases, arrhythmias are harmless, in some instances, it can be serious and even life-threatening for the child. Hence, parents must keep a watch on their child’s heartbeat and monitor it to detect abnormally slow or fast beats, especially in the absence of rigorous physical activity. Detecting arrhythmias at an early stage can help manage and treat the condition well within time.

What causes arrhythmia?

Arrhythmias can be caused as a result of internal factors, such as a disease of the heart muscle itself (cardiomyopathy) or a heart defect the child had when he or she was born (congenital heart disease). Apart from this other factor such as fever, infection, chemical imbalances and medication can also cause abnormal heart rhythm in children.

How does it occur?

The pumping action of the heart is powered by an electrical pathway that runs through the nerves in the walls of the heart. An electrical signal is generated with each heartbeat that travels from the top of the heart to the bottom, thereby creating a circuit. When the circuit works properly, the heart beats at a regular, smooth pace. When something interrupts this circuit, the heartbeat can become irregular, and an arrhythmia occurs.

Signs to watch out for

Arrhythmias do not always manifest clear signs or symptoms that can be indicative of the condition. However, there are a few common red flags that one must be aware of:

  • Weakness

  • Tiredness

  • Palpitations

  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy

  • Fainting or near fainting

  • Paleness

  • Chest pain

  • A slow heartbeat

  • A fast heartbeat

  • Feeling pauses between heartbeats

  • Sweating

  • Shortness of breath

  • Difficulty feeding (infants)

  • Irritability in infants

Treating the condition

Many arrhythmias in children are isolated occurrences and often harmless. In many cases, arrhythmia is treated by treating the underlying issue, such as a fever. Treatment, when needed, depends on the child’s age and the type and cause of the arrhythmia. Treatment options include medicines, catheter ablation, cardioversion, pacemaker, implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) and surgery.

Managing arrhythmias in children amidst the pandemic

Sometimes, a child may feel restless and struggle with breathing. While this may be indicative of anxiety and stress triggered by being home-bound in the current situation, it can also indicate an underlying heart issue like arrhythmia. Therefore, parents must be cautious and consult a doctor through telemedicine or by visiting the hospital to get an opinion and start the suited course of treatment on the basis of the diagnosis.

Maintaining heart health in children

We must try and prevent heart issues from arising in children at such a tender age. It is therefore important for parents to lead by example for their children and incorporate a heart-healthy lifestyle for the entire family, including:

  • Consume a well-balanced and nutritious diet.

  • Stay active and maintain a healthy body weight.

  • Avoid smoking around the child.

  • Limit or avoid caffeine and alcohol consumption in the household.

  • Reduce stress and help children create a schedule for themselves to maintain discipline.

(The writer is a cardiologist and electrophysiologist at KMCH Hospital)

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