When my sister told me my niece had a heart murmur, I couldn’t believe it. She seems like such a strong, healthy child. The family did their best not to worry in between tests and appointments, but whenever you’re dealing with a two year old and something as sensitive as the heart, it isn’t easy to set aside worry. I looked into it to see if I could find any good news for my baby niece, and luckily, I found just that.

It turns out that half of all children have heart murmurs at one time or another and many of those turn out to be innocent. In fact, even at cardio centers where they focus only on heart conditions, the majority of children they see about heart murmurs never actually have any significant heart disease. Heart murmurs can be caused by unrelated things like anemia, high blood pressure, overactive thyroid, or fever. Even with murmurs due to defects that occur in infancy, the body of the child often continues to develop until the issue is resolved.

Of course, that doesn’t mean a murmur should be ignored. Obviously, it can indicate extremely dangerous conditions as well, which is why parents rush to have their children checked out first by the family physician, then by tests, and eventually, by specialists.  Although innocent murmurs are extremely common, only specialists have the knowledge to tell the difference. They do this by looking for cardiac abnormalities and performing an electrocardiography. Experts recommend going straight to the specialist instead of spending money on expensive heart tests at both your physician’s and specialist’s offices.

Another interesting note about being diagnosed with a heart murmur is that it should not become reason for a heart disease label. Studies show that adding that label is more likely to increase the risk. Instead, it’s important to stay positive, wait for the final diagnosis, and then follow the instructions of the specialist. In the meantime, take comfort in the many parents (of 50% of kids) who went through this same stressful diagnosis process as you and their kids grew up just fine.

Newburger, J. W., Alexander, M. E., & Fulton, D. R. (2006). Innocent murmurs, syncope, and chest pain. Nadas' Pediatric Cardiology, Second Edition, Keane JF, Lock JE, Fyler DC (Ed), Saunders Elsevier, 357-372.