The outlook for a child who has a congenital heart defect is much better today than in the past. Advances in testing and treatment mean that most children who have heart defects survive to adulthood and are able to live active, productive lives.
Many of these children need only occasional checkups with a cardiologist (heart specialist) as they grow up and go through adult life.
Children who have complex heart defects need long-term, special care by trained specialists. This will help them stay as healthy as possible and maintain a good quality of life.
Children and Teens
Ongoing Medical Care
Ongoing medical care is important for your child's health. This includes:
- Checkups with your child's heart specialist as directed
- Routine exams with your child's pediatrician or family doctor
- Taking medicines as prescribed
Children who have severe heart defects may be at slightly increased risk for infective endocarditis (IE). IE is a serious infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers and valves.
In a few situations, your child's doctor or dentist may give your child antibiotics before medical or dental procedures (such as surgery or dental cleanings) that could allow bacteria into the bloodstream. Your child's doctor will tell you whether your child needs to take antibiotics before such procedures.
To reduce the risk of IE, gently brush your young child's teeth every day as soon as they begin to come in. As your child gets older, make sure he or she brushes every day and sees a dentist regularly. Talk with your child's doctor and dentist about how to keep your baby or child's mouth and teeth healthy.
As children who have heart defects grow up and become teens, it's important that they understand what kind of defect they have, how it was treated, and what kind of care is still needed.
This understanding will help these teens take responsibility for their health. It also will help ensure a smooth transition when they start getting care from a cardiologist instead of a pediatric cardiologist. A cardiologist treats adults who have heart problems.
Young adults who have complex congenital heart defects require ongoing care by doctors who specialize in adult congenital heart disease.
You may want to work with your health care providers to put together a packet of medical records and information that covers all aspects of your child's heart defect, including:
- Procedures or surgeries
- Prescribed medicines
- Recommendations about medical followup and how to prevent complications
- Health insurance
Keeping your health insurance current is important. For example, if you plan to change jobs, find out whether your new health insurance will cover care for your child's congenital heart defect. Some health insurance plans may not cover medical conditions that were covered under a previous plan.
It's also very important for your child to have health insurance as adulthood approaches. Review your current health insurance plan. Find out how you can extend coverage to your child beyond the age of 18. Some policies may allow you to keep your child on your plan if he or she remains in school or is disabled.
Feeding and Nutrition
Some babies and children who have congenital heart defects don't grow and develop as fast as other children. If your child's heart has to pump harder than normal because of a heart defect, he or she may tire quickly when feeding or eating and not be able to ...
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