A few years back, a group of parents were interviewed after losing a child to sudden cardiac arrest. 72% of them said their child had exhibited a warning sign – they just didn’t recognize it as a warning sign.

Sudden cardiac arrest can happen without warning signs, but it’s still important to look out for them.

Warning signs in adults and children are different, and they may seem commonplace. That’s why it’s important to consider where your child is and what he or she is doing when these signs appear.

Warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest in children include:

  1. Fainting or seizures during or immediately after exercise
  2. Unexplained shortness of breath
  3. Dizziness
  4. Extreme fatigue
  5. Racing heart (feels like it is beating out of your chest).
  6. Sudden and unexplained death of a family member under the age of 50 (e.g. drowning, auto accident, SIDS).

Fainting is the most common warning sign. If your child passes out during or right after exercise, seek medical attention immediately. If your child has a seizure, and does not have a history of epilepsy or trauma to the head, assume he or she is in cardiac arrest. Seizures can be a symptom of neurological conditions, but they can also occur during cardiac arrest.

Seizures are a symptom of neurological conditions. In the case of epilepsy, the advice is to leave the person alone and make sure the area around them is safe. However, seizure can happen during cardiac arrest too and the last thing you want to do is leave the person alone. If the child doesn't have a history of epilepsy and there was not a trauma to the head, assume the child is in cardiac arrest.

If you read this list and thought, “my child is short of breath at every sports practice,” rest assured that even healthy children will be tired during a difficult activity. But:

  • Does your child’s heart race when he’s sitting at his desk?
  • Does she remain winded when other kids have moved on?
  • Does he complain that he’s exhausted long after practice is over, or on days without practice?
  • Is she dizzy when she stands up quickly or strolling through the store?

Consider this. Your child is sitting on the couch watching Netflix. He starts coughing uncontrollably. What is your assumption?  Different day. He is at the kitchen table with a friend having a hot dog eating contest. He starts coughing uncontrollably. What is your assumption now? It is imperative that we evaluate what our kids are doing when they experience these symptoms.

If you’re concerned about one or more of these warning signs, talk to your family doctor.

Click here for a fact sheet about warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest to share with your family and school.

You can also explore more about symptoms at MediFind.