Congenital Heart Defects in Children

March 14, 2018
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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No parent wants to learn that their child has a heart defect. While the prognosis might be dim, early detection and treatment can improve a child’s odds for a long, healthy life.

What is a congenital heart defect?

A congenital heart defect is a problem with the structure of the heart. Many heart defects are diagnosed prior to the child being born, while others show symptoms during infancy or childhood.

If you’re looking to learn more about congenital heart disease, including the symptoms, causes, risk factors, signs, types, and treatments, read on.

Congenital Heart Disease Symptoms in Children

Sometimes symptoms of a congenital heart defect don’t present themselves until a child is older. The following may also be telltale symptoms of congenital heart defects:

  • Easily becomes short of breath during exercise or activity
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Chest pains
  • Palpitations (heart racing)
  • Swelling in the hands, ankles, or feet

What causes heart defects in babies?

A congenital issue is one that is present when the child is born. This means that the defect was caused by a malformation during gestation.

There is no specific cause for congenital heart defects. Certain conditions, however, such as environmental factors or chromosomal abnormalities (like Down Syndrome) may have an effect on the heart formation of a fetus.

Congenital Heart Defect Risk Factors

Although there is no specific cause for congenital heart defects, there are certain factors that may put a fetus at risk of developing a congenital heart defect.

The following list of risk factors is not comprehensive, nor is any single risk factor an absolute culprit for congenital heart defects. The reality is that in the majority of cases, the cause of congenital issues is unknown.

Possible risk factors include:

  • Medications the mother takes during pregnancy
  • If the mother has seizures
  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Consuming alcohol during pregnancy
  • Family history of congenital heart defects
  • Chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus
  • Diabetes (this risk can be reduced if the mother controls her diabetes prior to and during pregnancy)
  • Environmental factors

Does caffeine cause birth defects?

Although there have not been any conclusive studies done on humans that link caffeine consumption to birth defects, numerous studies on animals have shown that caffeine can cause birth defects, preterm delivery, and low birth weight.

Caffeine is one of the most popular stimulants in the world. But women who are pregnant need to pay more attention to the amount of caffeine they ingest.

Caffeine is a stimulant which means that it increases your blood pressure and heart rate, both of which are not recommended during pregnancy. Caffeine is also a diuretic which means it increases the frequency of urination and reduces fluid levels in the body. This can lead to dehydration.

When a pregnant woman consumes caffeine, the caffeine crosses the placenta to the baby. Although a woman may feel like her body is able to handle the amount of caffeine, she’s consuming, the baby cannot. This is because the baby’s metabolism is still maturing and cannot fully metabolize caffeine.

Even a small amount of caffeine can cause changes in the baby’s sleep pattern or normal movement pattern in the later stages of pregnancy.

It’s important to remember that caffeine isn’t just found in coffee either. Caffeine is in certain tea, soda, chocolate, and even some over-the-counter medications that relieve headaches. That’s why it’s especially important for pregnant women to be aware of what they consume.

Signs of Congenital Heart Disease in Babies

There are many different types of heart defects, and each of them has its own list of signs. Among the most common are the following:

  • Baby has a blue hue, blue tongue, or lips
  • Heart murmur (an unusual sound between heartbeats)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Swelling of the legs or abdomen

Types of Congenital Heart Defects

There are many types of congenital heart defects. Some of the most common include:

Congenital Heart Disease Complications

  • Congestive Heart failure: This is a medical term to describe a heart that’s not working as well as it should. Often, surgery will be necessary to treat it.
  • Endocarditis: This is an infection of the lining of the heart’s chambers. It will cause chest pains when breathing, blood in the urine, and flu-like symptoms.
  • Developmental problems: These may be caused by poor blood circulation, which affects motor skills, speech, and a child’s ability to ability to pay attention.
  • Respiratory infections: This type of complication is more common in ASD and VSD because the holes between heart valves cause extra blood to be pumped into pulmonary arteries to the lungs. This causes excess fluid buildup in the lungs, which in turn makes it harder for a child to breathe.
  • Slower growth and development: The child may be smaller than other children of the same age and, if the nervous system is affected, may learn to walk and talk later than other children.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Pediatric Home Health Care Services

If your child or anyone you love has a heart defect, we can help. Our experienced home health care providers will know how to deal with the scarier issues stemming from heart defects.

If you are considering pediatric home health care services, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.