Congenital Heart Defects: Caring for Your Child - Topic Overview
Caring for a child with a congenital heart defect can be challenging. The following tips may help you care for your child so that he or she is as healthy and comfortable as possible. These tips may also help you cope with the difficulties that parents often experience.
Caring for your child in the hospital
You and your child might take many trips to the hospital or doctor's office for tests, procedures, or surgery.
It's normal to be frightened and worried about your child being in
the hospital. Ask questions about any procedures that you don't understand or
any special care that is needed. In general, try to be with
your child as much as possible.
What to expect
While your child is in the hospital for surgery, treatment may involve:
intravenous (IV) fluids until your child wakes up after
surgery and can eat.
- Having oxygen levels in the blood measured
- Making adjustments to help
make breathing easier. Your child may have the head of the bed or crib raised,
be given oxygen (through a hood, tent, or face mask), or sometimes be given
treatment with a breathing machine called a ventilator.
fluids from the chest after surgery. Pressures within the body also may be
How to help
The following are tips to help your child while he or she
is in the hospital:
- Take some of your child's familiar things to the
hospital. Favorite toys or blankets will help the child feel more at
- If you cannot stay with the child, visit
- Take some pictures of the family. Place them where your
child can easily see them. Talk about what is happening with other family
members or sing favorite songs.
- Tell the nurses about your child's
habits, typical routines, and general preferences.
- Tell the nurses
about any special words that your child may use to tell others what he or she
- If your child is a newborn, hold and touch him or her often
to promote bonding.
- As much as possible, help the hospital staff
with your child's care. Find out whether you will be responsible for any
treatments at home. Take this time to learn how to do these treatments while
the hospital staff is there to teach you.
Coping with oxygen problems
Some heart defects, called cyanotic defects, cause oxygen problems. This means that the child's body isn't getting a normal amount of oxygen. Children with cyanosis may have a bluish tint to the skin.
If your child has
- Attempt to calm the child. This is the most
important thing you can do.
- Try placing the child with his or her knees to
the chest—either on the back with the knees drawn up to the chest or in
a sitting position with the chest to the knees.
- You may need to
give your child oxygen if the spells are severe and don't improve with a
change in position. Oxygen is given by placing a small tube at the entrance to
the nostrils. Your doctor will determine the proper amount of oxygen needed.
- Note when the spells occur, and plan activities to try to decrease
- Try to prevent the cyanosis by keeping your child
warm, decreasing activity, and frequently feeding small
- Notify your child's doctor when a blue spell occurs.
Oxygen therapy. Your child
may need extra oxygen at home. It is given through a small tube that rests at
the entrance to your child's nose. Oxygen can cause a fire to burn very
rapidly, so no smoking or open flames are allowed in the room where oxygen is
being used. The amount of oxygen will be prescribed by your child's doctor. Don't change the amount of oxygen you give your child without the advice of your