Hypertension is a common condition that can lead to serious complications, such as a heart attack or stroke. Old age is a risk factor, but children and young people are also at risk. Blood pressure is not routinely measured in small patients, but it can be a flag of a “hidden” serious condition. High blood pressure should be checked not only in adults. Here are the facts and myths about high blood pressure in children.
MYTH 1. Children cannot have high blood pressure
Research by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that 1 in 25 people aged 12–19 have high blood pressure, and 1 in 10 has prehypertension. 2-5% of children have hypertension, and a similar percentage of young people have too high blood pressure. Blood pressure norms for children are different from those for adults, and should be related to gender, age, and height.
MYTH 2. Children do not need to have their blood pressure checked
Every healthy child over the age of three should have their blood pressure checked at least once a year. This is a preventive examination that is highly recommended. Regular measurements are taken in children under the age of three in the following cases:
- organ transplantation or bone marrow transplantation,
- congenital heart defects,
- use of medicines that affect blood pressure.
Thanks to blood pressure control, we can detect a troubling symptom early, which sometimes indicates another serious disease, thanks to blood pressure control. Blood pressure measurements for your child can be taken at home or by a doctor during an office visit.
MYTH 3. A child without any disease cannot have high blood pressure
Children have essential hypertension, which is caused by lack of exercise, overweight and poor diet. Genetic predisposition is also important, and the risk of hypertension is higher in children taking certain medications or stimulants. The younger the child, the more likely it is to be caused by other conditions.
MYTH 4. A blood pressure spike in a child is indicated by a nosebleed
Hypertension is usually asymptomatic, but can cause clinical symptoms such as nosebleeds. Causes can include trauma, weakness, infection, medications, and more. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, tiredness, headache, dizziness, seizures, loss of consciousness, and visual or consciousness disturbances.
MYTH 5. A simple blood pressure monitor is enough to measure a child’s blood pressure
Only use upper arm blood pressure monitors rather than wrist blood pressure monitors. The most important aspect is the cuff, which children do not use in the same way that adults do. To achieve the desired result, the cuff must be adjusted to the child’s age and, preferably, the circumference of the child’s arm. The following are the standard dimensions:
- newborn cuff: width 4 cm, length 8 cm,
- infant cuff: width 6 cm, length 12 cm,
- cuff for older children: width 9 cm, length 18 cm.
A cuff that is too narrow or too wide will cause the result to be high or low.
Preventing hypertension in children is primarily the task of parents. Help your child maintain a healthy weight through physical activity and nutritious, healthy meals.
- Be a role model for your child!Introduce daily physical activity and healthy meals into your home routine, including plenty of fruit, vegetables, groats and other whole grain products – the fiber contained in them has a positive effect on the blood pressure level.
- Limit the salt in your baby’s food (sodium raises blood pressure).
- Give your child a healthy breakfast to school every day , including fruit or vegetables.
- Avoid foods high in sugars and saturated fats.
- Limit sugary carbonated and non-carbonated drinks. Instead, convince your child to drink water.
- Help your child choose sports that he/she likes and will suit his/her abilities.
- Help shape healthy habits in the school environment .