Children and PH
Pulmonary hypertension (PH) can affect newborn babies, young children and teenagers. As with adults, PH in children can be associated with another condition, or in some cases have no apparent cause. In children however, the outlook, treatments, tests and overall needs can differ greatly from PH in adults.
Symptoms of PH in children
The main symptoms of PH are similar in children to symptoms in adults. The main symptoms are breathlessness and tiredness. Symptoms more common in children with PH than in adults with PH include:
In some cases, children with PH can fail to put on weight like other children.
Tests for PH in children
The tests that are used to diagnose PH in children are similar to those used in adults. However, tests used to look for blood clots, such as ventilation-perfusion scanning are rarely needed. Like adults, PH in children is often misdiagnosed as other conditions such as asthma. The outlook for untreated PH can be worse in children than in adults, so it is important that PH is diagnosed as quickly as possible.
Treatment of PH in children
In the past decade or so, the approach to the overall management and treatment of children with PH has improved greatly. Treatments used in adults are also effective in children. However, because children change more quickly than adults, they need to be watched closely by the PH team. This allows treatments to be changed, depending on the child’s needs. The good news is that, with the correct treatment, the outlook for children with PH appears to be better than for adults with PH.
- Other medicines (including herbal medicines) may affect PH or the drugs that are used to treat PH. You should consult your PH team before your child starts taking any medication (even those prescribed by your GP).
- Do not let your child have a general anaesthetic without the anaesthetist talking to your PH team.
- Let other healthcare professionals (such as dentists) know that your child has PH.
You should try to treat a child with PH as normally as possible. They will be much happier if the rules stay the same and life carries on as normal. Children that are treated differently behave differently, and the only difference in a child with PH is that they have a medical condition. Behavioural problems should be dealt with as soon as possible, as you would with a healthy child. However, children just out of hospital may be clingier than normal or revert to earlier problems, such as bedwetting. Ask your PH team for help or advice if you feel you need it.
Try not to overlook other children in the family. They may feel upset at the extra attention that their brother or sister is getting. Make sure that friends and relatives are aware of the need to given equal attention to all your children.
There are some real-life accounts of other families’ experiences of children with PH in the patient stories section.
Help and support
Make sure that you have contact with a social worker (ask your PH team if you haven’t already been introduced to one). Your social worker can help with issues such as talking to your child’s school and advising on any benefits that will help deal with potential financial difficulties.
The Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA UK) has produced a DVD called Understanding PH in children.
The PHA UK also produce a range of publications for children aged 3–11, based around the Green Leaf Crew. The Green Leaf Crew are a fictional group of friends who all have PH. You can find all of our available publications here.