Cincinnati Family Magazine

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July 23, 2024

A Kid’s Healthy Heart

Thank your child’s healthy heart for the ability to run, jump, play and more.

Nothing puts a smile on a parent’s face like seeing their adorable little jumping bean play to their heart’s content. As kids get older, these activities can become more strenuous as they pick up sports activities. The once light and playful fun becomes a sweaty, heart-pumping session and at some point or another, you may worry about your kids’ heart health as their dedication to activity increases.

You may also worry about your child’s heart health related to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Your Kids’ Heart Health

“The major function of the heart is to pump blood around the body, supplying oxygen to our organs and carrying carbon dioxide or CO2 back to the lungs to be expelled,” says Shelby Gardner, family medicine physician with The Christ Hospital Health Network.

But what does having a healthy heart actually mean? In technical terms, it means that the electricity which tells the heart to beat is conducting a normal signal, allowing the valves and chambers of the heart to pump like they should, Gardner says. It’s far easier to maintain a healthy heart when kids eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly and spend more of their free time actively rather than sedentary, says Adam W. Powell, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist, outreach and exercise cardiologist at the UC Department of Pediatrics. The meaning of a healthy heart also depends on your kids’ age, he explains.

“A baby with a healthy heart is a heart that is healthy enough for them to feed well, breath OK, gain weight and thrive,” Powell says. “Versus a child and more pre-teen, a healthy heart for them might be a heart that functions well enough for them to exercise, keep up with siblings, keep up with their friends at school and kind of thrive as they are growing and developing.”

As teenage and college years approach activities begin to ramp up. Your kids’ heart needs to be healthy enough to take on the stress and exercise the body puts on it. If there are underlying heart issues, this is when the stress can reveal itself, says Powell. Encouraging good sleep hygiene, healthy eating, talking to your kids about anxiety and depression and exercising lessen the chances for heart issues in the future.

“The first thing parents can do is to have regular visits with their pediatrician,” Powell continues.

At sports physicals, the doctor may ask specific questions about family history of heart problems, for example, and listen to your kids’ heart to ensure they do not have additional risk factors or undetected heart issues that can make sporting activities dangerous, continues Gardner.

Concerns About the COVID-19 Vaccines and Young Hearts

You have questions about your child’s heart health being affected by the COVID-19 vaccine. Experts answered our questions.

Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Affect My Kids’ Heart?
The actual virus in adults can cause heart inflammation, but it doesn’t seem to cause this in kids, and it is very rare, according to Powell. Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) is rare from the vaccine. In fact, you are 5 – 7 percent more likely to catch this in the virus than the vaccine. It is very unlikely for kids to get this, and the vaccine does protect kids and people who are around the child, especially those who are high risk.

Is it Safe for My Kid to Get a Booster?
Boosters are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and they do help kids who have had their vaccine. Boosters help improve and jumpstart a kids’ immunity to subvarients of the virus as well as help with severe disease. That said, there have been case reports of myocarditis and pericarditis (inflammation of the outer lining of the heart) associated with mRNA COVID vaccines such as Moderna or Pfizer vaccines in males ages 12 and older and tend to happen within one week after the second dose of mRNA vaccine is given, according to Gardner. It is extremely rare and those affected have quickly returned to normal with standard medical therapy; booster risks do not outweigh the benefits.

If My Kid Has Already Had COVID, Does he Need a Booster?
The combination of having had COVID and getting the vaccine appears to be most protective. If your child had both they can get their booster at least two months after their last vaccine dose, even if it was part of the primary series or a previous booster. Check with your pediatrician on when your kid should get the booster if they have already had the virus. The two boosters authorized by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are made by Moderna (for ages 6 and older) and Pfizer-BioNTech (for ages 5 and older); note that active infection is least protective.

SOURCE: Gardner and Powell

About the Author

Amanda Hayward

Amanda Hayward is editor of this publication. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio, and a mom of three with one on the way. If she's not writing for Cincinnati Family, you'll find her running, juggling kids, teaching group fitness classes and cooking up healthy recipes.