Normal growth and development of a child depend on proper functioning of the heart and sufficient flow of oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body. Babies who have congenital heart defects may have cyanosis and tire easily while feeding. As a result, they may not gain weight or grow as they should. Some of the symptoms which may suggest that a child is suffering from a heart disease are as follows:
CHILD HAVING FEEDING PROBLEMS
The inability to take feeds at a single stretch, especially when associated with sweating, is a very important early sign. The baby may also sweat during feeds and stop after taking a small feed. Feeding difficulty is considered to be present if the baby cannot suck from the breast at a stretch for five minutes and becomes breathless during feeding. The baby continues to be hungry and cries after every 30 to 60 minutes for feeds.
CHILD HAVING REPEATED CHEST INFECTIONS
A child with increased blood flow to the lungs in congenital heart disease has repeated chest infection. Upper respiratory infections such as common cold, mild cough or hoarseness are not related to heart disease. Chest infections usually manifest with fever, fast breathing, indrawing of the chest and usually require antibiotics and nebulisation for recovery.
HAVING UNSATISFACTORY WEIGHT GAIN
Children with congenital heart disease have poor feeding and appetite and therefore suffer from unsatisfactory weight gain.
CHILD IS UNABLE TO KEEP PACE WITH HIS/HER FRIENDS WHILE PLAYING
When compared to other children, a child having a heart disease gets easily tired and complains of breathlessness while playing with friends of the same age group. This may indicate that his/her heart cannot function properly during exertion and competitive sports. Thus it requires evaluation for heart disease by an expert.
CHILD WHO GETS BLUE
Bluish discolouration of the skin or tongue is an important indicator of heart disease. Some of the blue babies are prone to episodes of ‘Cyanotic spells’ characterised by increase in the rate and depth of breathing. They also show symptoms of increased blueness with any stimulus. The expert opinion of a paediatric cardiologist must be sought in such a case.