Children And Heart Disease
The most common heart problems in childhood are congenital. That is, the problems are present at birth. Babies with severe congenital heart problems may need surgery at an early age to survive. These babies will have symptoms at birth.
More often the heart can have a small abnormality that may or may not be noticeable at birth. If there is a hole in the heart wall that lets blood go from one side to another, the baby or child may have blue lips or fingers. Sometimes these holes heal up and at other times they need to be closed with surgery.
Other problems, such as an abnormal heart valve, may allow blood to flow the wrong way, or prevent it from flowing easily. These problems will also need surgery when the child is older. Children can sometimes have abnormal heartbeats. Most of these are not serious and will not affect the child’s life span. More serious problems, however, may require immediate treatment.
Some heart diseases in children are not congenital. Strep throat infections can lead to rheumatic fever in children and young adults. Rheumatic fever can damage the heart muscle or heart valves. With antibiotic treatment of strep infections, however, it is much less common.
Other diseases, such as muscular dystrophy and Kawasaki Disease, can also affect the heart muscle or the arteries of the heart. These diseases are rare and should be treated by a specialist in children’s heart diseases.