Pericarditis in children: symptoms, causes and treatment

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Children's ailments always worry, it is not a question of being anxious or hypochondriac. If we then move from ailments to real pathologies, the concern can become greater. Today we talk about the pericarditis in children: what do you know about inflammation of the pericardium? Let's clarify what the warning signs are and what to do if pericarditis is suspected.

In this article

  • What are the symptoms of pericarditis in children
  • Why do babies get pericarditis?
  • What to do if pericarditis is suspected
  • Treatments and remedies for pericarditis

What are the symptoms of pericarditis in children

Although especially with young children it is difficult to understand exactly what they have - the most popular is the generic stomach ache - the pericarditis has specific symptoms that can be recognized or, alternatively, alert mum and dad or whoever takes care of the children.

Il pericardium is a thin membrane that lines the heart, made up of two parts separated by a space. Within this space there is a liquid that lubricates the heart and allows it to function optimally. When the pericardium becomes inflamed, the dimensions of this space, usually very thin, increase and cause chest pain

However, this state rarely compromises the functioning of the heart. Observe your child and if he complains

  • chest pain,
  • weakness,
  • irregular heartbeat (including palpitations),
  • difficulty in breathing
  • and maybe a slight fever,

it could be inflammation of the pericardium.

This disorder can be single, manifest only once, or be recurrent (and therefore we speak of relapses). 

Read also: Children's pain: it is important to listen to it

Why do babies get pericarditis?

Most of the time the cause of theinflammation of the pericardium which, as we said, is not a worrying condition in itself. Other times it can occur as a consequence of an operation in which the pericardium has opened, or it can be caused by a viral infection. 

There are rare cases in which pericarditis is due to a thoracic trauma or from diseases such as Lupus. 

Heart problems in children and Covid

Some cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children) have occurred in children affected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Vasculitis, heart and intestinal problems and an increased inflammatory state are among the main consequences. However, it is a different state of inflammation than pericarditis. 

Another concern related to Covid-19 infection concerns the onset of pericarditis and myocarditis after vaccinations of adolescents, particularly male, but this is a handful of cases compared to millions of inoculated doses. Medical treatment and rest usually resolve the inflammation.

What to do if pericarditis is suspected

If your child has all or some of the symptoms described above, particularly persistent chest pain in the back of the breastbone, which gets worse with breathing, it is best to go to the doctor first. auscultation to locate any pericardial rubbing. In this case, he may recommend an echocardiogram to confirm whether or not the diagnosis is made.

Treatments and remedies for pericarditis

If pericarditis is confirmed, one must proceed pharmacological therapy. In children the drugs used of preference are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as high-dose ibuprofen (NSAID) and colchicine. Only rarely, if these do not work, do we switch to cortisone

In the vast majority of cases, pericarditis in children resolves easily and without consequences. There complication that may worry the most is the cardiac tamponade, which would compromise the functioning of the heart, but it is a very rare effect that can still be worked on. 

Pericarditis in children is a rare event that occurs as a result of a virus affecting the organs, chest trauma, or, in many cases, without an easily identifiable cause. Parents, however, need not worry: recognizing the symptoms allows them to intervene immediately with a drug treatment and avoid the already very rare complications.


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