Let's Learn About ... Heart Murmurs
Dr. Diane adds "Parental Freak-Out Support and Management" to her resume
Parents worry SO much when I hear one in their kiddo's chest and I tell them about it.
But I am here to help you not freak out!
I feel like I need to add "Parental Freak-Out Support and Management" to my resume. Maybe underneath "Office Donut Day Coordination Specialist"?
I hear heart murmurs in kids Every. Single. Day. Sometimes numerous times a day. We're deep into school physicals this time of year and that's when many doctors will find a heart murmur on exam.
They're really common.
I have read that anywhere from 30-70 percent of children and adults have a heart murmur at some point in their lives.
A heart murmur is a whooshy sound I hear in between the heart's little beats. So instead of "bum-bum, bum-bum," I hear something like "WHOOSH-bum, WHOOSH-bum".
Lots of things cause heart murmurs. A heart murmur can show up at any time in a child's life. And just because it wasn't heard before doesn't mean something bad has happened or is happening.
Anemia can cause murmurs. Dehydration can. Illness in general can.
Fevers are a common cause of murmurs. I can't tell you how many times one of my little patients goes to urgent care at night and a parent is told, "you should know your child has a heart murmur." And then of course they worry! When really, it was your poor kiddo's 102F temp that caused it.
Sometimes it's just the shape and size of your kiddo's heart at that time in their life. A "Still's Murmur" is something I often hear anywhere from age 2 to 6. It can come and go and causes no problems. It just has to do with the way the blood sounds whooshing through the valves and rooms in the heart.
Pediatricians have heard thousands of heart beats. We are pretty good at knowing which murmur sounds okay, and which murmur doesn't. And we will send you to a pediatric cardiologist if we are concerned or just wanna see why the sound is there.
So when do I worry a little more about a murmur?
- Any murmur heard in a newborn to 6 month old (these are more likely to be a structure problem in the heart that they were born with, and we need to investigate those further).
- Any murmur accompanied by other symptoms of heart problems, like: Skin that appears ashen or blue from poor circulation (cyanosis), pale skin, heavy or rapid breathing, a rapid heart rate, tiredness, difficulty feeding or poor growth.
- If your child has a murmur and you tell me that they can't keep up with their friends when playing sports, or have chest pain or tightness related to activity.
- If you have a family history of sudden and early cardiac death (think young people under 40 who suffer a heart attack during play).
If any of these are happening, more studies (like an EKG or heart echo) are usually needed.
I hope this helps you understand murmurs a little better!
As always, if you're concerned, just ask your pediatrician to explain things a little more if they mention your child has a murmur.
Have a great day!
Get to know Diane Arnaout, M.D.
Dr. Diane Arnaout joined the Cook Children's Willow Park practice in 2011. You can stay connected with Dr. Arnaout and the Willow Park practice on Facebook. Dr. Arnaout was born and raised in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She attended college at Texas A&M University and medical school at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio. She did her pediatric internship and residency at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital and M.D. Anderson at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, TX where she served as a leader on the medical education committees. She is a board-certified pediatrician. Click to learn more.