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Cold weather can take a toll on your child's heart

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Cold weather

Cold weather can take a toll on your child's heart

Dr. Neeraj Awasthy
Cardiac Sciences, Cardiology, Paediatric, Paediatric Cardiology
Cardiac Sciences, Cardiology, Paediatric, Paediatric Cardiology
Senior Consultant & In-charge - Paediatrics Cardiology

Ah-choo! Cold weather can be upsetting for your little one. You may often find him/her sneezing, coughing, wheezing and most of all CRANKY!

As and when the weather gets cooler, the impact is felt by all of us. Winter is the season of respiratory illness especially in infants and young children. So a natural question arises- how can illnesses like flu and RSV affect children with Congenital Heart Disease (CHD).

Do you know that infants and children, regardless of the heart disease, can have severe courses of flu, RSV and other respiratory illnesses? The predisposition is primary because of relatively under developed immune system as compared to adults.

If the child is suffering from minor defects like small atrial septal defect, restricted ventricular septal defects or restricted patent ductusarteriosus, the effect of these diseases is the same in all children. In fact, the child who is awaiting surgery may have to wait for about 6weeks after treatment of chest infection.

How can you prevent infections?

Certain measures may appear small such as:

  • Using handkerchief while sneezing
  • Keeping away from infective environments
  • Washing hands frequently
  • Immunization can prevent respiratory illness in children and this is true for babies with CHD

All this will go a long way in keeping infections away from a patient who has a congenital heart defect and is awaiting surgery.

When should you consult a doctor?

In case you are experiencing:

  • Increased breathing
  • Fever
  • Feeding difficulty

Please do not ignore above symptoms and seek physical consultation, especially when there is an underlying CHD.

Does the child have repeated chest infections?

Chest infections are usually frequent symptoms of heart disease because they manifest with fever, fast breathing, as well as in –drawing of chest. All these infections require antibiotics for recovery. Surprisingly, upper respiratory functions like common cold, mild cough or hoarseness are not related to heart disease. If there is more than one episode of lower respiratory tract infection in a year, it is the only clue available that a child is suffering from CHD. The episodes are mostly marked in this part of the season.

Does the child have feeding problem?

Inability to take feeds at a single stretch, especially when associated with sweating, is an early manifestation of CHD. Feeding difficulty can be known if the baby cannot suck from the breast at a stretch for five minutes and becomes breathless during feeds. The baby may also sweat during feeds and stop after taking a small feed. He/she may continue to be hungry and cry after every 30 minutes to an hour for feeds.

Does the child have unsatisfactory weight gain?

- Infants with CHD have poor feeding pattern and hence have poor weight gain. Paediatrician is an important person who can guide you and monitor the same.

- Have you noticed that your child is not able to keep pace with his/her friends of the same age, especially during physical activities such as playing?

- Diseased heart cannot cope with the demands during exertion and competitive sports. Child may need evaluation by the paediatric cardiologist.

Have you noticed that the child is blue?

Blueness is an important indicator of heart disease. More the blueness appears; more serious is the heart defect. Some of the blue babies are prone to episodes of “Cyanotic spells” characterized by an increase in the rate and depth of breathing with increase in blueness. This can result in limpness, convulsion or unconsciousness. Get the child evaluated by a competent doctor in case you find him blue. Echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart) is a very important and safe diagnostic modality that helps to diagnose most of these CHDs and should be done by a specialist trained in echocardiography of children.