World Heart Day: Cardiac ailments in children

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Dr Minnie Bodhanwala is the CEO of two charitable semi government Hospitals in Mumbai viz Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children and Nowrosjee Wadia Maternity Hospital. This World Heart Day, Dr Bodhanwala shares insights on the reasons for low detection of cardiac ailments in children and how utmost care needs to be taken during and post their cardiac surgeries, with Tanuvi Joe

Which factors are responsible for heart ailments in young children ?
Cardiac ailments are the major cause of deaths in India, more than 28 per cent of total deaths were due to cardiovascular diseases in adults, whereas in chidren it is the cause of four to five per cent of all deaths. The major cause of cardiac ailments in children are cardiac heart anomalies followed by infective, metabolic and hereditary causes. The increasing modern sedentary lifestyle in children can trigger heart ailments in childhood which may present early or when adults.

Health conditions of the mother, such as diabetes, hypertension or habits like smoking and drinking during pregnancy can also cause heart ailments in children. Pollution could lead to Cardiovascular diseases in children and the components of pollution affect the blood vessels and can lead to serious heart problems. Children suffering from heart ailments should avoid exertion in polluted areas.

Why do many of these heart ailments go undetected ?
Many heart ailments in children show up at a later age with serious symptoms. There could be various reasons to the same with the most common being lack of screening for cardiac diseases during pregnancy or early childhood. Some heart ailments are less severe and complicated to diagnose in early childhood and hence they are detected only when symptoms appear later in life. Hence, apart from screening, it becomes important that parents stay alert and do not ignore symptoms like Cyanosis which is a blue tinge to the skin, sudden episodes of rapid breathing, difficulty with feeding – shortness of breath when suckling, poor growth, dizziness, inappropriate tiredness etc. and visit the doctor immediately for evaluation.

What kind of care is required for the child during and after the treatment?
You have to be more careful that symptoms do not exacerbate and the child is stable for surgery. Children with heart diseases often don’t grow well and develop as fast as other children. This is because they are more prone to other infectious diseases as well. One has to ensure that the kids receive proper nutrition in consultation with your doctor and do not get any infections during the course of their treatment. One also has to be careful about the physical activities a child is allowed during treatment or post surgery. Also, regular follow ups and timely medications need to be ensured during and after surgery.

In what way can holistic treatments better the recovery of the child?
Holistic treatment helps achieve better results in treating patients for cardiac ailments. Holistic care can help children integrate appropriate self care and help children undergoing surgey recover faster, make the experience less painful and experience fewer complications. Holistic treatment involves use of play therapy, touch therapy, use of music, art therapy, communication skills etc. Young children are undergoing continuous development and thus physical, mental, emotional, social and play environments have a strong impact on their overall well-being.
With a holistic approach, we are able to promote learning and development in all aspects of life that will help lead a better life in future as well. The doctors, nurses and hospital staff play an important role in providing holistic care to the children and it should be incorporated as a part of treatment, not only for cardiac ailments but all other ailments in children as well.

What initiatives can the government take to ensure timely, advanced and accessible treatment?
The government should understand the magnitude of the problem which is now becoming a huge public concern. It should focus on intervention plans for prevention and treatment of children suffering from heart diseases. There is also a need to make necessary resources available for setting up and strengthening paediatric setups across the nation. An universal health coverage for children suffering from heart diseases will help take off the financial burden from parents and focus more on providing specialised care and attention to the children. Free or subsidised facilities for screening will also help in early detection and better treatment outcomes. It could also ensure programmes on awareness of prevention of cardiac diseases by promoting healthy lifestyles.

tanuvi.joe@expressindia.com