Jimmy Kimmel, one of America’s favourite TV personalities, recently had his newborn son diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. Barely a day old, the kid had a hole in the wall of his heart and a blocked blood valve, both of which needed emergency surgery to correct.
But Mr. Kimmel’s experience could’ve taken a much darker turn, if a ‘very attentive nurse’ hadn’t spotted signs of oxygen deprivation in the child.
Heart disease in very young children isn’t very easy to spot and while some hospitals mandate that all newborns be checked for organ defects, others have more lax standards.
This is especially worrying since even minor defects can wreck your child’s growth and development in the long term. Thankfully, modern corrective surgery can alleviate or remove most cardiac defects, although a small percentage of cases remain inoperable. If your child is among that small minority, the best parenting advice we can give you is to stay informed, visit a recommended paediatric cardiologist and keep sharp eye on your baby’s behaviour.
Here’s how to spot the signs of congenital heart defects early and potentially save your baby from a lifetime of health care bills.
Reduced Weight Gain & Appetite
Often, a heart defect will cause the body to spend more on energy pumping blood than on other critical developmental functions.
Check if your child doesn’t put on enough weight or takes an unusually long time to finish their meals. This could mean that their body is diverting resources to a malfunctioning heart.
Swelling Of The Hands & Ankles
If you notice a sudden puffing up of your baby’s hands and feet, or even the area around their eyes, contact a doctor immediately. This is a symptom of water retention and often results from poor circulation—a likely sign of heart problems.
Unusual Sweating & Fatigue
Does your baby sweat more than normal? Do they always have a film of perspiration on their skin? Are they often too fatigued to play? Do they need constant naps?
These are all signs that the heart is working tremendously over capacity to keep blood flowing through your baby. You’ll need sharp parenting skills to catch these symptoms, particularly if you live in hot tropical climes.
Heart defects can cause poor circulation and, in infants, this can lead to a perpetual oxygen deficit. The body tries to compensate for this by increasing its oxygen intake. So, if your child has frequent difficulty breathing, the first thing you should do is check for a heart defect.
Blue- Or Purple-Tinged Skin
Blue skin or cyanosis is how Jimmy Kimmel found out that his baby needed immediate surgery. This is a severe sign of oxygen deprivation and means that your baby needs to be rushed to an emergency care unit.
Don’t wait. Seriously. Your baby could need rapid treatment if you want to prevent a fatal outcome.
When it comes to newborns, spotting these red flags early can save you, and the child, a whole world of trouble. Take a look at the other factors that negatively affect your baby’s health to know more.
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