Heart Murmurs in Children

Most heart murmurs in children are harmless and we shouldn't worry. However, sometimes tests are needed to rule out other heart conditions.
Heart Murmurs in Children

Last update: 09 January, 2021

Heart murmurs in children can worry parents. However, they’re more common than most people think, and many kids have a heart murmur at some point. In fact, most of them don’t affect the child’s health at all and aren’t a cause for concern.

The human heartbeat is usually stable and sounds like “lub-dub, lub-dub.” However, in some people, the blood makes an extra sound as it passes through the heart. This is what’s known as a heart murmur.

What happens in heart murmurs?

Each heartbeat, as we’ve seen, consists of two different sounds, “lub” and “dub”:

  • The first sound (“lub”) happens when the valves that control the passage of blood from the upper chambers (the atria) to the lower (the ventricles) close.
  • The second one (“dub”) happens when the valves that control the flow of blood to the rest of the body close.

A heart murmur is another sound you hear apart from the lub-dub. Sometimes, these sounds are just the result of normal blood flow through a normal heart. On the other hand, a murmur can be a sign of a heart problem.

Harmless heart murmurs in children

A child with a felt heart.

In preschool and school-age children, heart murmurs are hardly ever a concern; kids don’t need special attention, and the sound eventually disappears. These children have heart murmurs known as functional or harmless murmurs.

If a child has a murmur, a doctor will discover it between the ages of one and five during a routine exam. Normally, the pediatrician can tell if a murmur is harmless just by listening to its sound. If necessary, he will need to see a pediatric cardiologist to be sure.

On rare occasions, a pediatrician will hear a heart murmur that sounds abnormal enough to indicate that something might be wrong with the heart.

Congenital heart abnormalities

Some heart murmurs in children may indicate that there’s a problem in this organIn these cases, doctors will refer the child to a pediatric cardiologist. Then, this specialist will tell you if they need any tests, such as:

  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of the heart and surrounding organs.
  • Electrocardiogram or ECG: This is a record of the heart’s electrical activity.
  • Echocardiogram: This is an image of the heart using sound waves.

Notably, only 1 in 100 babies is born with a structural heart problem or a congenital heart defect. These little ones may have symptoms of the abnormality during the first days of life. Additionally, these symptoms may not show up until later in childhood.

Some of the symptoms that can appear in children are:

  • Fast breathing
  • Feeding problems
  • Cyanosis
  • Stunting

On the other hand, teens can develop other symptoms, such as:

  • Tiredness
  • Problems carrying out physical activities
  • Chest pain

Most frequent heart problems

A child's hands holding a bandaged heart and stethoscope.

There are several different heart abnormalities that cause heart murmurs. Some of these alterations are:

  • Abnormalities in the cardiac septum: These affect the septum, or the part that separates the atria from the ventricles. When this septum has a hole, blood can flow through it into other chambers of the heart. Then, it causes a murmur. However, small holes tend to close over time.
  • Valve abnormalities: Sometimes, the heart valves are very narrow, small, thick, or have some other type of abnormality that doesn’t let blood flow properly. This can cause blood to regurgitate and lead to heart murmurs.
  • Heart muscle problems or cardiomyopathiesIn this situation, the heart muscle may be too thick or too weak. For this reason, it loses the ability to efficiently pump blood to the rest of the body and triggers a heart murmur.

In summary, we could say that the presence of heart murmurs in children is not a serious problem. When parents find out, they shouldn’t get overly worried at first.

However, it’s a good idea to monitor its evaluation over time, especially if symptoms appear that that could be linked to this problem.

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