A heart rate is the number of times a heart beats per minute. According to the American Heart Association, a newborn's heart beats about 140 times a minute. As a child grows, the rate slows. A teenager's average resting heart rate is around 70 beats per minute. Heart rates vary from one child to the next and change with a child’s activity level.
Checking Your Child’s Heart Rate
The heart rate of an infant or child can be checked by placing an ear directly against the child’s chest and counting the number of beats for one minute. An adult can also check the heart rate by feeling for the brachial pulse under the upper arm near the baby's armpit. The American Heart Association recommends using a clock or watch to time the number of beats per minute.
Irregular Heart Rates or Arrhythmia
While the heart usually has a regular, even beat, it can also have an irregular beat known as arrhythmia or dysrhythmia. According to the American Heart Association, a faster than normal heart rate is known as tachycardia, while a slow rhythm is known as bradycardia. There are several causes of arrhythmia, including sinus arrhythmia, which causes the heart to speed up for a few beats when a child inhales. The heart returns to a normal speed when he exhales; this is considered normal. Fevers and illnesses can also cause a temporary abnormal heart rate. An arrhythmia can be linked to some medications and may be an indicator of more severe heart problems such as a heart defect or heart disease. If a parent or caretaker suspects an abnormal heart rhythm, they should consult with a medical professional for diagnosis and treatment. Arrhythmia can develop at any age.
Factors Affecting Heart Rate
According to the Mayo Clinic, a child's heart rate can be affected by several factors including body size, air temperature, emotions, medications, activity level and illness. If a child is alert and active, her heart rate will be higher than if she is resting or sleeping. If a child is upset or excited, his heart rate will be higher than if he is calm and comfortable. Even lying down versus being held in an upright position can affect a baby's heart rate.
Long QT Syndrome and SIDS
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome has been linked to Long QT Syndrome. According to the Mayo Clinic, Long QT is a hereditary disorder that causes a small electrical disturbance in the heart, resulting in sudden tachycardia. Researchers have found that one in 10 babies who die from SIDS have a genetic defect in the genes that cause Long QT Syndrome. Since this is typically a hereditary disease, it is recommended that families with history of SIDS get an electrocardiogram to test for Long QT.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, is an important life-saving skill for anyone regardless of age and is a valuable resource for parents in the case of SIDS, accidental drownings or other life-threatening situations. According to the American Heart Association, CPR can help save a child's life and prevent further injury from lack of oxygen. The American Red Cross and the American Heart Association provide CPR training to groups or individuals throughout the United States.
If you must conduct CPR on an infant by yourself, carry the child with you to the phone as you conduct CPR and call emergency services, typically 911 in most areas in the United States.