Lagan's Foundation

Precautions to Take when your Child has a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)

What is and isn’t the right way to care for your child

For parents of children with a Ventricular Septal Defect, it can be difficult to know what is and isn’t the right way to care for your child. 


Thankfully, there has been a huge amount of research conducted over the years on heart defects, and we now know what kinds of precautions you should be taking with children that suffer from these defects.

Symptoms of an Ventricular Septal Defect to look out for


Not every child with a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) will show the same symptoms. However, if they have a large hole in their heart, they may suffer from common symptoms such as:


  • Fast and hard breathing 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Paleness 
  • Issue gaining weight 
  • Sweating while feeding 
  • Fast heart rate 
  • Regular respiratory infections

These symptoms will generally indicate that the hole will not close by itself and your child will likely need surgery to close the hole. This is usually done in the first 3 months of a child’s life to prevent any further problems.

What precautions should you take when your child has a Ventricular Septal Defect?

Children with smaller Ventricular Septal Defects usually won’t need to restrict their activities, but it is important you still keep an eye on them and look out for any of the symptoms we mentioned above. 


However, if your child has a larger Ventricular Septal Defect, you should be more cautious about the type of activities they are taking part in. Your child may be restricted to the amount of exercise and sporting activities they can do on a daily basis, however, your doctor will advise you what is best for your child based on their individual circumstances. 


More regular dental checkups may also be required, as well as an increase in oral hygiene. A lot of bacteria enters our body through our mouths, and while it doesn’t particularly affect people without heart defects, it can increase the risk of endocarditis for those who do have heart defects. This is why increased oral hygiene can be so important.

How can you care for a child with a Ventricular Septal Defect?

When you find out that your child has a Ventricular Septal Defect, it can be scary. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure you are properly caring for them and giving them the best quality of life possible.

Your doctor will advise you on how to best care for your child, but some our tips include the following:


  • Give your child medications as prescribed – You should always stick to the instructions that are provided with any medication. If you don’t feel they are working or are having adverse effects, you should always speak to your doctor for advice.
  • Keep an eye out for different symptoms – If you notice a new or different symptom, this could be a cause for concern.
  • Ensure your child is eating enough – This can be hard for some children who have heart defects since they can become tired easily and therefore may eat less. Try to establish the specific signs and signals for hunger from your child to ensure they are fed when they are actually hungry.
  • Change your habits – If you or anyone in your household smokes, make sure you try your best to quit and never smoke anywhere near your child. The smoke can make your child’s heart problems worse.
  • Make sure your child has all their recommended vaccines – Ensuring your child has all their vaccines will help to keep them healthy and reduce the risk of them becoming ill from other diseases. Make sure anyone in close contact with your child has all the necessary vaccines too. 


Are there long term concerns for a child with a Ventricular Septal Defect?


Over time, if the Ventricular Septal Defect is not treated, it can cause other complications such as heart failure, high blood pressure in the lungs and irregular heart rhythms. There may also be an increased risk of stroke. 

However, most children who have treatment for Ventricular Septal Defects, whether that is from medicine for smaller holes or surgery for larger ones, will live healthy and long lives.