We talk about hypertension or high blood pressure mostly in adults. However children of all ages from newborn to teenager can have high blood pressure. Their diagnosis is often missed because most of them have no or vague symptoms which may not make one think about hypertension. Symptoms of high BP in a child may be headache, visual blurring, nose bleeding, reddish urine, body swelling, breathing difficulty, fits or even irritability in a small infant. If it remains undiagnosed and not adequately treated for long time, high blood pressure can affect other organs of the body like brain, heart, kidneys, eyes and more importantly affect growth of the child. The devastating effects are more if child is suffering from the disease from early age, because a child is going to live a longer life than an adult with high BP. So any child above 3 years of age who attends doctor for any other reason should have a BP checkup. Normal blood pressure in a child is a relative term as it depends upon age, gender and height and is measured with proper size BP cuff. Unlike adults standard charts are followed in children to find out whether BP is normal for that particular child.
Another important fact is that unlike adults who have high BP as age related changes and they are treated with drugs with aim to control hypertension, children often have underlying some other disease which lead to high BP most commonly kidney disease. So they need extensive evaluation to find out the cause and treat accordingly. Many a times hypertension is completely cured if underlying disease is curable. On the other hand, if we miss the cause of hypertension the disease may remain uncontrolled.
What parents can do to prevent hypertension in a child
- Encourage healthy eating habits of taking more fruit and green vegetable as high potassium in diet is proved to prevent hypertension.
- Avoid high salt diet especially junk and fast food, tinned foods with preservatives. High sodium in diet is notorious to cause hypertension.
- Dedicate at least one hour of day to outdoor activities like exercise, structures outdoor games and cut down total screen time of TV, video games, mobile etc. to less than half an hour a day.
- Avoid using over the counter drugs in children for even minor illness. Urinary tract infection in children are often only with fever and if it remains inadequately treated can cause kidney scars and is an important cause of childhood hypertension.
- Screen your child’s BP if there is history of early onset hypertension, kidney or heart diseases in family.