When we think of heart disease, we often think of older adults. The fact is, children can also have heart disease. They may be born with it (a congenital heart defect), or it may be acquired from infections or another medical condition or illness.

Facts about Congenital Heart Defects

Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are the most common type of birth defect in the U.S.? Nearly 1 in 100 babies, or 40,000 each year, will have a congenital heart defect.

These congenital heart defects are present at birth. They include deformities in the heart’s structure, electrical system, and other abnormalities that affect cardiac function.

Congenital heart defects are approximately 60 times more prevalent than childhood cancer. 

Signs of possible congenital heart disease

If your child shows any of these signs, call your child's doctor for an evaluation.

  • pale gray or blue skin color (cyanosis)
  • rapid breathing
  • swelling in the legs, abdomen, or areas around the eyes
  • shortness of breath during feedings, leading to poor weight gain
  • heart murmurs: a “whooshing” sound made by blood circulating, usually harmless in children, though may signal an underlying problem

If your child shows any of these signs, call your child's doctor for an evaluation.

Other types of heart disease in children

While some children are born with a heart defect, other heart diseases can affect children too, including:

  • arrhythmias: an abnormal heart rhythm
  • Kawasaki disease: a rare disease that can cause inflammation in the blood vessels in the hands, feet, mouth, lips, and throat, and produces fever and swelling in the lymph nodes, most often under the age of five
  • rheumatic heart disease: caused by the same bacteria (streptococcus) that cause strep throat and scarlet fever

Heart Health Infographic


Signs of possible heart disease in children: 

  • shortness of breath with activity
  • turning blue at the gums/tongue
  • passing out
  • chest pain with exercise
  • palpitations — heart skipping a beat or beating abnormally
  • dizziness with exercise
  • poor, slow growth in infants and newborns

The Pediatric Heart Center

If your child has a heart condition, our team of experts is here to care for your child’s cardiac needs. The Pediatric Heart Center at Hasbro Children's Hospital has treated thousands of children. Thanks to our years of experience and advances in medicine and technology, many children with a heart condition can go on to have long, full lives. We are here to help them do just that.

We offer:

  • same-day appointments for urgent issues, and have a board-certified pediatric cardiologist on call 24/7 for all emergencies
  • evaluation, testing, and preventive programs for all forms of cardiac problems
  • inpatient and outpatient care
  • transition program for young adults with congenital heart defects
  • mental health / psychosocial support for patients with cardiac concerns
  • Follow Your Heart Camp for children to have fun while learning the basics about their heart condition
  • lipid clinic for patients with cholesterol problems
  • satellite sites in East Greenwich, Rhode Island; Fall River, Massachusetts; and Lincoln, Rhode Island.

Learn more about how we care for children and their hearts. Visit our website

Lloyd Feit, MD

Dr. Lloyd R. Feit is a pediatric cardiologist with the Pediatric Heart Center at Hasbro Children's Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.