Congenital Heart Defects: What Parents Need To Know

Being diagnosed with a heart problem can be scary, but it can be even more devastating when your child is born with a heart condition. A congenital heart defect is one that is present at your child's birth. It is important for parents to understand what these defects may or may not mean and how to deal with the diagnosis.

Symptoms Congenital Heart Defects

A heart murmur is often the first sign of a heart defect in children. While a murmur is not a disease, it is a sound that can be and indication of one. Murmurs are heard through a stethoscope when the heart creates a vibration or sound when pumping blood. It is important for parents to keep in mind that not all heart murmurs indicate abnormalities. The doctor can sometimes determine just with his or her stethoscope if the murmur is a sign of heart disease. Other times tests, such as EKGs and x-rays, are necessary to make a complete diagnosis. 

There are other signs of heart defects in children.

  • Bluish-colored skin from a lack of oxygen in the blood due to a hole in the heart of an obstruction of blood flow to the lungs
  • Breathing difficulties due to excessive blood flow from the right side to the left side of the heart
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating while feeding
  • Failure to gain weight or a noticeable weight loss
  • Decreased energy level

Any of these symptoms require immediate medical attention to determine if there is a heart problem. 

Treatments For Congenital Heart Defects

Most congenital heart defects are treated during infancy, often with one single surgery. However, more complex cases may require two or more surgeries during the child's early years. Once the child has completed the necessary surgeries, he or she is treated at home with medications, and through occasional visits to a pediatric cardiologist and a primary care doctor. 

The cardiologist can explain the different procedures and proper care for your child to help in healing. 

Caring For A Child With A Congenital Heart Defect

Caring for a child with a congenital heart defect can seem scary at first because your child's physical activities may be limited, making it easy to become an overprotective parent. Keep in mind that your child can still play with with his or her friends. To make life easier for the child, explain the condition to the child when he or she is old enough to understand and allow the child to participate in his or her own care. This makes the child feel more confident and positive. 

If you have concerns, you can always check with your child's cardiologist to determine what types of activities your child can and cannot participate in, such as competitive sports. 

If you have a child with a heart problem, it is important to follow all basic instructions from the cardiologist about what the child can eat, how to administer medications, and learn the signs of trouble. It is important to make your child to feel as normal as possible, especially with children cardiology