A heart murmur is an abnormal sound in the heart. Normally the beat of the heart has a distinct “beating” sound. However, when a heart murmur is present, there may be an extra “whooshing” sound as the blood flows through the heart. Heart murmurs can be either congenital (present at birth) or develop over time. Almost half of all babies and children have harmless heart murmurs.
What causes heart murmurs?
Some heart murmurs are caused by heart disease or disorders, some by anaemia, and others by stress. In children, most cases of abnormal heart murmurs are caused by congenital heart disease.
Are heart murmurs serious?
Most heart murmurs are “innocent.” This means they don’t cause any problems and don’t need any treatment. Others are more serious and may require treatment.
Can I Prevent Heart Murmurs?
Heart murmurs, no matter what type they are, are not preventable.
How do I know if my child has a heart murmur?
Many innocent heart murmurs don’t produce any symptoms. Your child’s doctor will be able to hear a heart murmur by listening to your child’s heart with a stethoscope. Symptoms of a heart murmur include:
- Chest pains
- Fast heart rate (tachycardia)
- Heart palpitations
- Cyanosis (blue tinge to the skin caused by lack of oxygen), especially around nose and mouth
How do I treat a heart murmur?
Most heart murmurs don’t require treatment. And, in most cases, treatment revolves around treating the underlying cause of the murmur. If your child has heart disease or a malformation of the heart valves, those issues will need to be resolved in order to eliminate the heart murmur.
Should I call the doctor?
If your child displays any of the symptoms of a heart murmur, seek medical treatment immediately, as these can be a sign of a serious heart condition. After a diagnosis has been made, your doctor will discuss the best treatment options for your child.
What you need to know about heart murmurs
- A heart murmur is an abnormal whooshing sound in the heart caused by blood rushing through the heart valves in an abnormal manner.
- Most heart murmurs are “innocent” which means they are harmless.
- Almost half of all babies and children have some sort of heart murmur.
- Treatment of heart murmurs involves treating the underlying disorder responsible for the murmur.
Other heart conditions:
Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand's parenting resource for family health. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health and Health Insite.
Last revised: Wednesday, 17 September 2014
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.