Signs of Heart Problems in Children and Teens

Most of us don’t think children have heart problems, but did you know that 2,000 children of all ages die each year from sudden cardiac arrest in the United States? It is responsible for up to 5% of all deaths in children from 5 to 19 years old. That is just one such heart problem and there are more. Read further to learn the most common signs of heart problems in children and teens.

children at in the kitchen smiling togetherCauses of Heart Disease in Children

After Birth

There are a number of acquired heart diseases that occur after birth. 

  • Rheumatic heart disease from rheumatic fever permanently damages the valves of the heart. It most often affects school-age children. 3 to 5 million children worldwide have chronic rheumatic heart disease. It is the most serious consequence of rheumatic fever which is a result of the bacteria from strep throat. It has become more rare with improved treatments.
  • Kawasaki disease is the leading cause of acquired heart disease in children under 5 years old. It causes inflammation in the walls of the arteries throughout the body damaging those exact arteries that supply blood to the heart. It can lead to coronary artery aneurysm.
  • Viral myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart’s muscles. It is one of the major causes of sudden cardiac arrest.
  • Heart rhythm problems occur when your heart beats too fast, too slow, or has an irregular pattern. Tachycardia is the most common found in children with a fast beating heart. It can also lead to sudden cardiac death.

Before Birth

Known as congenital heart defects, they can begin to develop during the first 6 weeks of pregnancy. 40,000 babies are born with congenital heart disease or defects each year—one in one hundred newborns. It is due to the blood vessels near the heart not developing properly. 

Signs of Heart Problems in Children

Note that not all of the following symptoms are due to heart problems in children. Some young kids just naturally sweat more, palpitations can be from too much caffeine, and dizziness can be attributed to not drinking enough fluids. However, with that in mind, parents should watch out for these signs.


In infants and babies look for:

  • feeding difficulties
  • trouble gaining weight
  • a bluish color to the lip, tongue, and nail beds
  • fast or rapid breathing
  • getting tired while eating
  • sweating while feeding

Young Children

Watch for the following in young children:

  • passing out during physical activity
  • heart palpitations they may complain about
  • shortness of breath while playing sports or being active
  • chest pain

Rely on an experienced pediatric cardiologist like The Children’s Heart Institute in NOVA and Maryland if your child has any of these symptoms. Do not wait to take them for an evaluation.


The same applies for teens with any of the above symptoms. They may already have been screened, but if these signs become evident, see The Children’s Heart Institute for a thorough examination.

Passing out or syncope can be a symptom of heart disease.

Always note if your child is having breathing problems and tell their primary care physician.

Yes, it is frightening to find out your child has a heart problem, but medical science has improved life expectancy for these children, so they can live a long and healthy life.

Contact The Children’s Heart Institute if your infant or child has any signs of heart problems in the Maryland and NOVA area.