Congenital Heart Defect Week

Congenital Heart Defect Week

During National Heart Month, we can’t forget about kids with Congenital Heart Defects or Childhood Heart Disease. Support for this special week in February involves a coalition of families, non-profit groups, individuals and healthcare professionals whose goal is to raise awareness of this issue around the world.

Heart alert CHD, affecting nearly 2 million families in the United States alone, is the most common birth defect. It is also the number one cause of death related to a birth defect. The coalition hopes to increase awareness and educate as many people as possible so that early diagnosis and care may result.

The more common heart birth defects are:

  • Patent ductus arteriosus ” “ an artery that does not close as it is supposed to
  • Septal defect ” “ hole that allows oxygenated and un-oxygenated blood to mix
  • Heart valve defects ” “ valves do not open and close normally
  • Coarctation of the aorta ” “ narrowing of the aorta

This is the short list, there are actually many more. Heart defects are as varied as the children who have them. Many can be fixed surgically; others have symptoms that are controlled with medications.

These defects can be caused by many environmental factors or genetics. Some of the most common risk factors are:

  • The age of the mother
  • A history of reproductive issues
  • Race
  • Maternal stress
  • Exposure to drugs or chemicals

Symptoms to Watch for in Older Children

Sometimes the defect is not caught in infancy. Symptoms to watch for in any child are:

  • Recurring respiratory infection
  • Asthma-like symptoms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Complaints of “funny” feelings in the chest area
  • Paleness, especially after exertion
  • Excess sweating
  • Bluish lips, fingers, or nail beds
  • Irritability
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Excessive tiredness

Report any symptoms to your doctor, and ask for a cardiology check. Some symptoms are so mild that a diagnosis of a congenital defect is made during teen or even adult years. However, these symptoms can mean an undiagnosed disaster for a child. Make sure you report them to a doctor even if they seem temporary, or come and go.


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