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Palpitations in children and young people

Palpitations in children and young people

A heart palpitation occurs when a person feels that his or her heart is beating irregularly. It might feel like the heart is skipping beats, or is beating faster than usual when the person is at rest (not exercising).  Sometimes exercise can cause the palpitations to occur, with the heart continuing to race despite stopping exercise.

Heart palpitations often don't indicate a health problem. They can be caused by a variety of factors, including: being startled, frightened or under stress. Cold, allergy, and asthma medications; herbal supplements and other drugs, caffeine and alcohol can also cause heart palpitations. Two of the most frequent causes for heart palpitations are just not drinking enough fluid on a regular basis, or being unfit (out of good physical shape).

Younger children may not be able to describe exactly what they are feeling when this happens, although sometimes they will say that their heart is "beeping" fast.

Rarely, heart palpitations can be a sign of a serious medical condition, such as anemia, thyroid problems or an arrhythmia. (An arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat caused by a problem with the heart's built-in electrical system.)

 

What should I do if my child has a heart palpitation?

If your child experiences any of the following along with heart palpitations, you should make an appointment with your GP. If your child appears unwell with this then seek immediate medical help.You should keep a log of when palpitations occur and under what conditions, and talk to your GP about it. If you are able to check your child’s heart rate by taking the pulse or touching the chest directly when the palpitations occur, that information will be helpful to your doctor.

Make sure to tell your doctor if your family has a history of known heart abnormalities or unexplained death before the age of 50 (including sudden infant death syndrome).

 

How can a doctor tell if heart palpitations are cause for concern?

Your GP  will consider factors such as the frequency and intensity of the heart palpitations and your child's medical history. In the majority of cases, no treatment is necessary for heart palpitations. Your doctor may make general recommendations, such as cutting back on caffeinated drinks or increasing routine hydration.

If your GP refers you to our clinic we will examine your child and listen carefully to your concerns.

Your child might have some further tests including an ECG, Heart scan and an ECG holter recording (ECG recording over several hours).

 

What are the treatment options for heart palpitations?

In rare cases where we do find an underlying heart condition, one treatment option includes medications. Another option is ablation, a catheterisation technique using heat or cold to sear off abnormal electrical passageways in the heart. If you need this you will be referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital In London.

 

Further reading, courtesy of the British Heart Foundation:

Palpitations; https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/conditions/palpitations 

ECGs; https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/tests/ecg 

Caring for a child with heart disease; https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/support/health-and-emotional-support/caring-for-a-child-with-heart-disease