Prevention is the best option

Congenital heart disease. Habits recommended for infants.

Consells de salut per a nens amb cardiopaties congènites a Vall d'Hebron

Congenital heart diseases are structural and/or functional malformations of the heart present at the time of birth and, in the vast majority of cases, the causes are unknown. This type of heart disease is multiple and varied, and the signs and symptoms are diverse: they range from asymptomatic, which do not require specific treatment, to severe ones, which need surgery during the first days of life.

Description

What do you need to bear in mind if you care for an infant with congenital heart disease?

 

To improve the quality of life of infants with congenital heart disease, you are advised to follow these daily tips and routines.

 

Diet

  • Follow a varied and balanced diet, adapting to each patient’s needs.
  • Some breastfeeding babies will need to compliment their diet with milks that are high in calories or, in some cases, food will need to be given through a nasal tube to ensure the baby continues to gain weight.

 

Hygiene

  • Wash hands often to avoid infection, especially respiratory infections.
  • Clean teeth and mouth to avoid caries and infections that may result in endocarditis.
  • Avoid piercings and tattoos.

 

 Physical exercise

  • Depending on the type of heart disease, the child may be able to live a normal life and take part in activities corresponding to their age.
  • In particular cases, limited physical activity is recommended, especially strength training (weight lifting, rowing, etc.).
  • It is important not to overprotect children with heart disease so that they can live as normal a life as possible.
  • Patients and family will be told about the different foundations and associations that offer psychological and social support to people with congenital heart disease.

 

Consult a paediatrician if the infant has the following symptoms:

  • Tiredness when feeding from a bottle or eating poorly and not gaining weight.
  • Cold sweat, mainly on the head.
  • Cough and congestion.
  • Changes in activity: if they get tired more than normal or become more inactive.
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea, as this may lead to a significant loss of fluids. Children who take diuretics are more likely to become dehydrated. In children who take digitalis (Lanacordin), vomiting or diarrhoea may be a symptom of intoxication.
  • Fever, as it may indicate decompensated heart failure. It is also important to rule out a serious infection.
  • Bleeding, especially in patients being treated with antiplatelets or anticoagulants.

 

Warning signs to go to A&E

  • Pale, grey and cool skin.
  • Less urine than normal.
  • Agitated, very fast breathing with a lot of effort, ribs marked on breathing (pulling).
  • Tachycardia, arrhythmia or palpitations.
  • Significant irritability or poorliness.
  • Hypoxia crises, that is, when serious episodes occur in cyanotic heart defects: the infant goes blue, breathes very quickly and is very irritable.
  • Chest pain.
  • Fainting or syncope.
  • Complications following heart surgery. It is necessary to monitor whether the wound has signs of infection (fever higher than 38 ºC) or if there are changes in the colour of the scar.
  • Increased pain or the presence of pus.

 

 

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