What Is an Arrhythmia?
When a child’s heart beats too fast, too slowly, or irregularly, it’s called an arrhythmia. An arrhythmia could indicate that there is a problem with the body’s electrical signals that tell the heart muscle when and how to beat.
Why Do Arrhythmias Occur?
Arrhythmias can develop in children before birth, but most begin after birth. They can occur in infants, young children, or teenagers. There are many causes of arrhythmias, including imbalances of electrolytes in the blood, certain medications, abnormal electrical pathways in the heart muscle, congenital heart defects, a heart muscle disease called cardiomyopathy, or genetic heart cell problems (such as long QT syndrome) that can occur in families. Arrhythmias may also occur following heart surgery.
When Should My Child See a Pediatric Cardiologist?
Arrhythmias can range from harmless to life-threatening. It’s important for your child to see a pediatric cardiologist if you or your child notices symptoms like an abnormally fast or slow heartbeat, palpitations, dizziness, feeling weak or tired often, or shortness of breath. Fainting may be a sign of a heart rhythm issue, or it could have another cause -- for example, a problem with the autonomic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary body functions, such as heartbeat and breathing).