A 17-year-old class 12 student in Gujarat died due to cardiac arrest, reports have said. She was climbing stairs during the recess when she began feeling uneasy and breathless. After sweating profusely she was unconscious after which she was rushed to hospital where she was pronounced dead. In April 2023, a 13 year old girl died of heart attack. The incident happened at Abbaipalem village in Mahabubabad’s Maripeda mandal in Telangana. The deceased was a class 6 student. To understand this alarming incident and many as such which have happened in the past, we spoke to experts on this matter.
In recent years, the distressing occurrence of children experiencing heart attacks has raised concern among parents, medical professionals, and communities alike. Though rare, these events highlight the importance of understanding the factors that contribute to such incidents and taking necessary precautions to safeguard children’s heart health,” says Dr. V. Rajasekhar, Senior Consultant Interventional Cardiologist & Electrophysiologist, Certified Specialist for TAVR (Percutaneous Trans Aortic Valve Replacement), Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad.
These conditions are either congenital or acquired and parents should be aware of the symptoms so that the disease is treated early, says Dr. Shreya Dubey – Consultant – Neonatology & Pediatrics, CK Birla Hospital Gurugram.
What are the factors that put a kid’s heart at risk?
Dr. V. Rajasekhar: While heart attacks are commonly associated with older individuals, several factors can increase the risk in children. One primary cause is congenital heart defects, which are structural abnormalities present at birth that affect the heart’s function. These defects can obstruct blood flow or lead to irregular heart rhythms, making children susceptible to heart attacks. Other contributing factors include certain medical conditions such as Kawasaki disease, cardiomyopathies, and genetic disorders.
What parents should know about this?
Dr. V. Rajasekhar: Lifestyle choices also play a role in a child’s heart health. Childhood obesity, caused by poor diet and sedentary habits, is a significant concern. It can lead to conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, all of which raise the risk of heart problems. Additionally, smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, substance abuse, and lack of physical activity contribute to heart disease risk in children.
What are symptoms parents should know?
Dr. Shreya Dubey: Cardiac conditions in children can be congenital or acquired. The symptoms or the signs of cardiac issues in children include bluish discoloration of the skin or bluish discoloration around the lips, difficulty in feeding, shortness of breath, poor growth, a pallor that is paleness of skin, fatigue, joint pains, chest pain and sometimes there is a history of passing out during the physical exertion.
So these are the signs that the parent should be cautious about. If the parents observe any of these signs in the kids, they can visit their pediatrician for an examination. If the pediatrician on auscultation or on examination finds any systemic findings, then the pediatrician will refer the kids to a cardiologist where an ECO will be done an ECG will be done and other specific cardiac tests can be done. So it should diagnose the cardiac condition.
Health tips parents should know
Dr. V. Rajasekhar: Parents should be aware of the following crucial points:
1. Regular check-ups: Schedule routine check-ups with a pediatrician to monitor your child’s growth, development, and heart health. Early detection of any underlying conditions can help prevent heart attacks.
2. Healthy habits: Encourage a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while limiting sugary snacks and drinks. Encourage regular physical activity and limit screen time to promote a healthy lifestyle.
3. Prevention and awareness: Teach your child about the importance of maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking and substance abuse, and making positive lifestyle choices. Additionally, ensure they receive age-appropriate vaccinations to protect against diseases that may affect heart health.
4. Family support: Promote an environment that fosters emotional well-being. Create open lines of communication, encourage stress management techniques, and provide support during challenging times.
By proactively addressing risk factors, prioritizing healthy habits, and staying vigilant about a child’s well-being, parents can significantly reduce the likelihood of heart attacks in their children. Remember, early intervention, regular medical care, and a nurturing environment can make a significant difference in protecting the precious hearts of our little ones.