What is Considered a Normal Heart Rate in Children?

K.C. Bruning

Determining what a normal heart rate in children is depends upon the age of the child. The normal range is fastest for newborns and gradually declines as the child gets older. A typical range for newborns is from 100–160 beats a minute. Once the child has reached a year, and up to ten years, a normal rate ranges from approximately 70–120 beats a minute. Many children will have an irregular heartbeat, a condition known as arrhythmia, which is often not serious, but can sometimes indicate a problem that requires medical attention.

A child's heart rate typically increases with a fever.
A child's heart rate typically increases with a fever.

Activity will often cause more variance of heart rate in children than adults. When a child has a higher or lower than normal heart rate it is usually not a cause for concern unless the condition persists. A consistently higher heart rate in children often indicates a fever, while a lower heart rate tends to be a sign of a more serious condition. Low heart rates in infants can indicate an especially serious problem and should receive immediate medical attention.

Infants have faster heart rates than older children.
Infants have faster heart rates than older children.

In order to determine the heart rate in children, the pulse must be measured. The pulse can be measured through any artery that is close to the surface of the skin. The most common places to take a pulse are the wrist and the neck. This should work well for older children. It is often easier to take a newborn’s pulse above the joint of the elbow. The pulse can also be taken at the temple, groin, or behind the knees.

When the pulse is located, at least two fingers should be placed lightly on the spot, so that the pulse can be detected, but there is no pressure on the artery. The heart rate is determined by counting the number of beats per minute. This process can be made easier by counting beats for 10 to 30 seconds and then multiplying by six or two to determine the number of beats per minute.

An abnormal heart rate in children, known as arrhythmia can be serious or inconsequential, depending on the cause. It happens most frequently when a child breathes, as the intake and release of breath causes a change in the number of beats per minute. This is usually a harmless condition that will not need treatment. If an irregular heartbeat does indicate a problem, some of the more serious conditions Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, premature atrial contraction, and tachycardia. These conditions should be treated by a medical professional.

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