My 4 1/2 year old daughter has had complaints of having a "broken heart" when she is upset and crying. Last night after she had a very emotional day and was settled down for the night she complained again that her heart was breaking and her chest hurt. I put my ear to her chest and her heart was beating fast (normally) then slowed down dramatically for about 10 to 15 beats then began beating fast again. Is this normal? Please help, mommy of the sweetest little girl who thinks her heart is broken.
Many children in this age range are very aware of their bodily functions and often report things about their heart beat. The most common cause of slowing of the heart rate in a healthy child is linked to breathing and high vagal tone, called sinus arrhythmia. This is not a bad rhythm. The heart rate slows a bit during expiration or breath holding (as in crying) and speeds up with breathing. It should not be associated with chest pain. If she is not having shortness of breath at the time, and her coloring is good, then this probably is benign. If she is not looking normal, then she should be evaluated by your doctor. It might be helpful to learn to take her pulse rate at these times; your doctor will appreciate having some numbers of her heart rate at the time of her symptoms, should she continue to complain.
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