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Children’s heart rate: how to take your child’s pulse

Children’s heart rate is one of the important vital signs taken during every doctor’s appointment. Their heart rate, or pulse, is the rate at which their heart pumps blood. This rate is naturally higher after they’ve been running around, and naturally lower while resting, and the range of what’s healthy and normal varies widely by age. The younger the child, the faster the heart rate will be. A normal infant heart rate ranges between 100 and 150 beats per minute. However, a normal adult heart rate ranges between 55 and 85 beats per minute. A resting heart rate of 150 beats per minute would be abnormal in an adult, just as a heart rate of 55 beats per minute would be abnormal in an infant. Taking your child’s heart rate can be a little tricky if you have never done it, but it’s a good skill to have as a parent in case the occasion arises where you need to take it.

 

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Have your child relax, sitting down, for 5 minutes before taking their pulse. Get a stopwatch, look at a clock with a second hand, or open the clock app on your phone (as long as it shows seconds). 

Now, you need to pick up your child’s pulse from a point on their body. This will be different for babies and for older children. 

 

  • For an infant, the best place is a spot on the inner part of their upper arm. This is called the brachial pulse. Your baby should be laying down with his or her arm up and hand placed near the ear. Gently place two fingers (your index and middle fingers) on the inner part of your baby’s upper arm. You should feel a light pulsing sensation. 
  • For an older child, there are two places to feel the pulse. The inner wrist (radial pulse) and the neck (carotid pulse). The radial pulse can be felt on the inner wrist near the thumb. The carotid pulse can be found on either side of the windpipe. 

 

Once you feel a pulse on your child, keep an eye on the time, and count how many pulses you feel during a 15-second period of time. When you get this number, multiply it by four in order to calculate the heart rate per minute.

 

When will I need to take my child’s pulse?

Don’t worry if you didn’t know before this how to take your child’s pulse, or have never done it before; parents usually don’t have a need to check it. However, there are some times that checking your child’s pulse is needed. If your child faints, or is feeling very faint and dizzy, you may want to check their pulse to report to their doctor. Or, if your child is complaining of their heart skipping or beating very hard, or if they are breathing very heavy even despite relaxing, getting their pulse is also a good idea. 

 

When is a pulse an emergency?

If your child is having a hard time waking up, has trouble breathing (their chest is being sucked inwards with each breath), or they have pale skin or blue lips, immediately call 911 or take them to your closest emergency room. 

There won’t be many occasions to take your children’s heart rate, but it’s a good thing to know how to do it. If you have any concerns at all, remember, you can always contact your child’s doctor or local pediatric urgent care for help!