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.
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
- 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
- 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.