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Heart failure in children - home care
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Heart failure in children - home care

Congestive heart failure (CHF) - home monitoring for children; Cor pulmonale - home monitoring for children; Cardiomyopathy - heart failure home monitoring for children

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Heart failure is a condition that results when the heart is no longer able to effectively pump oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body to meet the needs of the body's tissues and organs.

Parents and caregivers, as well as older children with heart failure, must learn to:

Monitoring Your Child at Home

Home monitoring helps you and your child stay on top of your child's heart failure. Doing so can help catch problems before they get too serious. Sometimes these simple checks will remind you that your child has been drinking too much fluid or eating too much salt.

Be sure to write down the results of your child's home checks so that you can share them with your child's health care provider. You may need to keep a chart, or the doctor's office may have a "telemonitor," a device you can use to send your child's information automatically. A nurse will go over your child's home results with you in a regular phone call.

Throughout the day, watch for these signs or symptoms in your child:

Weighing your child will help you know if there is too much fluid in their body. You should:

Feeding and Nutrition

Babies and infants' bodies are working extra hard because of heart failure. Infants may be too tired to drink enough breast milk or formula when feeding. So they often need extra calories to help them grow. Your child's provider may suggest a formula that has more calories packed into every ounce. You may need to keep track of how much formula is taken, and report when your child has diarrhea. Babies and infants will also need extra nutrition through a feeding tube.

Older children also may not eat enough due to a decrease in appetite. Even older children may require a feeding tube, either all of the time, just part of the day, or when weight loss occurs.

When more severe heart failure is present, your child may need to limit the amount of salt and total fluids taken in every day.

Other Self-care Tips

Your child will need to take medicines to treat heart failure. Medicines treat the symptoms and prevent heart failure from getting worse. It is very important that your child take the medicine as directed by the health care team.

These medicines:

Your child should take heart failure medicines as directed. DO NOT allow your child to take any other drugs or herbs without first asking your child's provider about them. Common drugs that may make heart failure worse include:

If your child requires oxygen at home, you will need to know how to store and use oxygen. If you are traveling, plan ahead. You will also need to learn about oxygen safety in the home.

Some children may need to limit or restrict certain activities or sports. Be sure to discuss this with the provider.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your child's provider if your child:


American Heart Association. Heart failure in children and adolescents. Updated May 31, 2017. Accessed January 20, 2019.

Aydin SI, Sidiqi N, Janson CM, Norris SE, Peek GJ, Beddows KD, Lamour JM, Hsu DT. Pediatric heart failure and pediatric cardiomyopathies. In: Ungerleider RM, Meliones JN, McMillan KN, Cooper DS, Jacobs JP, eds. Critical heart disease in infants and children. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 72.

Bernstein D. Heart failure. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 442.

Starc TJ, Hayes CJ, Hordof AJ. Cardiology. In: Polin RA, Ditmar MF, eds. Pediatric Secrets. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 3.


Review Date: 10/12/2018  

Reviewed By: Scott I. Aydin, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Division of Pediatric Cardiology and Critical Care Medicine, The Children's Hospital at Montefiore, Bronx, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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