- About a quarter of these congenital heart diseases are critical cases
- They require surgery in the first year of their life itself
- Many babies with critical CHDs show symptoms early on
World Heart Day 2020: With the rise in COVID-19 cases in India, the entire country has been focusing on controlling the spread of infection. The medical fraternity and the government has been working out treatment protocols and supporting trials on medicines and vaccines. As we expand our battle against the novel coronavirus, we are gaining knowledge on the impact of COVID-19 on high-risk patients and those with pre-existing, serious illnesses. Many of these patients have missed getting proper care and treatment during the lockdown due to restricted access to healthcare resources and a fear of going to doctors or hospitals. One such group is children with cardiac conditions due to congenital heart disease.
World Heart Day 2020: Here's what you need to know about congenital heart disease
Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) is the most common congenital disorder in newborns and affects around eight in every 1,000 babies. It refers to a defect in the formation of a baby's heart since birth. About a quarter of these CHDs are critical cases, which means that they require surgery in the first year of their life itself. Many babies with critical CHDs show symptoms early on which leads to early detection and treatment, other cases are not diagnosed until much later. This delay in detection can increase the morbidity and mortality risk, thereby making timely treatment crucial.
A setback in terms of early detection arises from lack of awareness and resources available to the lower socio-economic section of the society. The pandemic has just added to these challenges. It is important that parents are made aware about the importance of monitoring the baby's health and ensuring proper nutrition for the child's development in the womb right from the early stages of pregnancy.
Congenital heart disease: Know the symptoms
Here are some common signs of congenital heart disease, as per National Health Service:
- Rapid breathing and heartbeat
- Swelling around eyes, and in legs and tummy
- Swelling in hands, ankles or feet
- Blue tinge to the skin
- Shortness of breath during feeding, which makes it difficult for them to gain weight
It is in severe cases that symptoms of congenital heart disease develop shortly after birth. Sometimes, the symptoms do not develop until teenage or early adulthood. At this age, the condition may cause symptoms like extreme tiredness or fatigue and fainting during exercise amongst other symptoms.
Congenital heart disease: Important tips for parents
- Parents should educate themselves about symptoms. This will enable early detection and prevent any negligence due to lack of information.
- Checking for any family history of CHD or existing genetic syndromes, or if the mother is suffering from any medical condition or infection is important for monitoring the baby.
- In addition, parents also need to be made aware of a slight increase in risk if they are having a child through any reproductive technology like fertility medication or IVF.
- The importance of avoiding smoking and drinking and eating a balanced diet needs to be emphasised.
- Ultrasound and echocardiograms can also help in monitoring and detecting the baby's health.
While these measures don't guarantee prevention, they enable early diagnosis which is essential for proper care and reducing risk of future complications. Knowledge of these symptoms and conditions also helps new parents monitor their child's health and immediately seek help if they suspect a CHD. Surgeries conducted early in serious cases can increase life-expectancy and help the patient live a near normal life. In addition, following a healthy lifestyle and prescribed medication as well as regular check-ups can avoid any future complications and deteriorations. Especially today, with the risk of COVID-19, these measures are beneficial to eliminate any life-threatening conditions as a result of contracting the virus.
(Dr Bushan Chavan, Consultant, Paediatric Cardiology, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.