COVID-19 can impact people of all ages, including young children. At UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, our experts at the Heart Institute care for children with heart complications from COVID-19. The Heart Institute, part of UPMC’s Heart and Vascular Institute, is internationally known for providing world-class heart care to patients with a range of conditions.
But how exactly can COVID-19 impact your child’s heart health? Tyler H. Harris, MD, a pediatric cardiologist at the Heart Institute, is here to explain.
Q: How does COVID-19 affect children’s hearts?
A: COVID-19 can affect children’s hearts in a few different ways. It is primarily a respiratory virus, which impacts the lungs, but it can also cause damage to the heart.
When children are significantly ill with COVID-19, they can develop inflammation in and around the heart muscle.
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In addition, there is a post-infectious syndrome that can affect kids about a month following primary COVID-19 illness, known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). This can also cause inflammation of the heart and other organs due to COVID-19.
Q: What signs and symptoms should parents be cautious of that may indicate heart damage from COVID-19?
A: Although it is infrequent, there are a few signs that parents should be cautious of that may indicate heart damage. These include:
- Chest pain during peak exercise.
- Passing out during exercise.
- Irregular or very fast heartbeats with exercise.
If your child shows any of these symptoms, it’s important to consult their doctor right away.
Q: What preventative steps can parents take to protect their child’s heart from COVID-19?
A: The most important thing that parents can do to protect their child’s heart from COVID-19 is to get their kids vaccinated.
The COVID-19 vaccine reduces risk of inflammation of the heart due to COVID-19 and reduces risk of MIS-C. It also helps to protect kids’ hearts from COVID-19 by preventing them from getting very sick with the virus.
Q: How can infection affect my child’s ability to participate in sports?
A: If children do get infected with COVID-19 and have inflammation of the heart or MIS-C, they need to be restricted from certain activities. We recommend that kids stop participating in sports or activities until they are fully recovered from the virus.
In addition, when kids get sick with COVID-19, they will need to be pulled out for quarantining and contact tracing. They may also experience feelings of fatigue and exhaustion, which are common symptoms of COVID-19. Your child may not feel well enough to participate in sports or activities, so it’s important that they rest and recover.
Q: How and when should parents seek care if they suspect COVID-19 related heart damage in their child?
A: Parents should contact their primary care physician or pediatrician if their child has COVID-19. Before their child returns to participating in sports as normal, it’s important to consult their primary care physician as well to ensure they are fully recovered.
Their doctor may perform an EKG, also known as an electrocardiogram. This test measures the activity of the heartbeat using electrical waves to ensure the heart is functioning properly. Often, after completing the recommended testing, kids will be able to return to their normal sports and activities following recovery from COVID-19.
Q: What resources does the Heart Institute at UPMC Children’s Hospital provide for children who may have heart complications from COVID-19?
A: The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute is home to a team of experts who can provide both consultations and diagnostic testing for a wide range of heart and vascular conditions. Our team of specialists is available to offer support or a second opinion to your primary care provider if questions arise.
Contact our team at the Heart Institute at UPMC Children’s at 412-692-5540.
From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is a national leader in pediatric care, ranking consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. We provide expert treatment for pediatric diseases, along well-child visits, urgent care, and more. With locations across Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia, you can find world-class care close to home. We also work closely with UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, a national leader in care for newborns and their mothers. Our goal is to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond. Visit our website to find a doctor near you.