Paediatric Heart & Lung Diseases
Heart disease rarely occurs in children but when it does, it can have serious consequences. Respiratory illnesses however are quite common.
Some children are born with heart defects while others acquire heart disease as a result of infection, illness or genetic conditions. With proper care and treatment, children with heart disease can lead normal lives. Some of the common paediatric heart conditions include:
Congenital Heart Disease: These are conditions present at birth and usually constitute structural heart defects. They are the most common paediatric heart conditions and include underdevelopment or defects in the heart walls or valves that affect the way blood flows through the heart.
Arrhythmias: Abnormal heart rhythms can lead to inefficient pumping of blood to the rest of the body. There are different types of arrhythmias. Common symptoms include weakness, dizziness, fatigue and difficulty feeding.
Atherosclerosis: Accumulation of fatty deposits inside arteries which gradually cause them to stiffen and narrow. Although this condition is rare in children, it can be present in those with obesity or hypertension.
Rheumatic Heart Disease: A bacterial infection which initially produces fever and causes damage to the heart walls and valves.
Pericarditis: Infection and fluid build-up between the surrounding membranes of the heart which makes it difficult to pump blood to the rest of the body.
Viral Infection: Viral infections rarely affect the heart, but can cause inflammation of the muscle wall when they do. This affects the heart's ability to pump blood.
Respiratory conditions such as colds can last about 2 weeks and usually occur around six times a year in children. Some illnesses can affect the lower respiratory system (bronchioles or lungs) and produce symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath and rapid breathing. Common lung conditions affecting children include:
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): RSV commonly affects children before the age of 2. It usually produces the symptoms of a common cold but in some cases can progress to difficulty with breathing and asthma.
Bronchiolitis: The bronchioles are small airways that lead to the lungs. In bronchiolitis, these airways become inflamed, swollen and filled with mucus making it difficult to breathe. The condition commonly affects infants and children below the age of 2 causing fever, cough, and rapid heart rate and breathing.
Pneumonia: Inflammation and accumulation of fluid in the alveoli or tiny air sacs in the lungs as a result of bacterial or viral infection is termed pneumonia. This can produce fever, coughing, difficulty breathing with a grunting sound while exhaling, low appetite and decreased activity,
Asthma: In asthma, the airways are easily irritated by allergens, viruses, smoke, chemical irritants and pollution. There is increased swelling and mucus production of the membranes leading to cough, chest tightening and shortness of breath.
Rare causes of respiratory illness in children include congenital abnormalities of the lungs, cystic fibrosis, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, interstitial lung disease etc.