How to Manage Your Child’s Congenital Heart Defect

Aug 10 • 2015

Each year, almost 40,000 babies are born with a congenital heart defect (CHD) in the United States. Luckily, the medical world has made huge advancements in testing and treatment, so most of these children end up living active lives with occasional checkups. Kids with complex heart defects need long-term care from a specialist who will assist them in maintaining their quality of life.

If your child is born with a heart defect, ongoing medical care is important. Your child should:

  • Have checkups with his heart specialist as directed
  • Take medications prescribed by the doctor
  • Visit a family doctor for routine testing

Children with severe heart defects have a higher risk of getting infective endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the valves and chambers of the heart. This is a serious issue that can be prevented by making sure your child brushes his teeth every day and regularly visits the dentist to keep his teeth healthy and clean.

Physical activity can be one of the biggest struggles for children with congenital heart defects. It is important to speak with your doctor to determine how much exercise he can handle and what kind of activities are best for him. Obtain a note that describes any limitations and be sure to provide it to daycares or schools so they are aware of the situation.

Nutrition can be another issue because many babies born with heart defects can become tired while they are feeding. This can cause them to gain less weight than they should while also burning more calories because of the extra work their heart is doing. Your doctor can work with you to provide a plan for diet and nutrition so you can ensure your child is eating healthy and getting enough nutrients.

Overall, many people with CHD live normal, independent lifestyles with little or no disabilities to worry about. Some people find that disabilities or other heart problems develop over time. As your child ages, work with your doctor to make sure he is on the right track for a happy, healthy life.