Lagan's Foundation

Heart Murmurs in Children: A Simple Guide

A heart murmur is a whooshing or rasping sound heard during a heartbeat - some can be innocent and others abnormal. Learn more in our simple guide.

Key points:


  • A heart murmur is a whooshing noise heard in the heart
  • An innocent heart murmur means there is nothing wrong with the heart 
  • An abnormal heart murmur is caused by heart defects and will need to be treated as soon as possible


Heart Murmurs in Children: A Simple Guide

What are Heart Murmurs?

A heart murmur is a whooshing or rasping sound heard during a heartbeat. It is caused by turbulent, or “rough blood”, flowing through the heart valves near the heart. 

Most heart murmurs are harmless, but they can be a sign of a bigger problem with your heart and treatment may be needed.

What causes heart murmurs in children?

Innocent heart murmurs are the most common kind of heart murmur in children and teenagers, and it’s thought that at least half of all children will have them. 

Heart murmurs sometimes occur due to fever or infection, and they will usually disappear when your child recovers from their illness. 

Abnormal heart murmurs are more serious and they are often caused by a congenital heart disease. These murmurs may be present at birth or develop later on in your child’s life. 


Types of heart murmurs in children

There are three types of heart murmurs that occur in children. These include:

  • Systolic murmurs – This is a heart murmur that occurs when the heart contracts.
  • Diastolic murmurs – A type of heart murmur that occurs when the heart relaxes.
  • Continuous murmur – A heart murmur that occurs throughout the heartbeat. 

Heart murmurs are graded on a scale of 1 to 6 and they are based on how loud they are. 1 being the quietest, and 6 being the loudest heart murmur. 


How are heart murmurs diagnosed?

If you suspect something is wrong with your child’s heart, a paediatrician will usually ask about their general health and conduct a physical exam on your child. During the exam, they will listen to your child’s heart with a stethoscope. If an abnormal sound is heard, your child will likely be referred to a cardiologist for further evaluation. 

Some tests that may be conducted include:

  • Chest X-rays 
  • An electrocardiogram, which tests the electrical activity of the heart
  • An echocardiography, which uses an ultrasound to look at the structure of the heart 


Symptoms of a heart murmur in children

Children who have innocent heart murmurs will have no other symptoms except from the abnormal sound. A child with abnormal heart murmurs may have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Poor feeding 
  • Poor weight gain 
  • Sweating 
  • Chest pains 
  • Dizziness and fainting 
  • Coughing 
  • Swelling of the lower legs, stomach, liver or neck veins 

Symptoms of a heart murmur can likely be symptoms of a greater issue, such as a congenital heart disease, and so it’s vital that you seek professional help to reach a diagnosis. 


When should your child see a doctor about a heart murmur?

You should take your child to hospital if they are displaying any of the following symptoms:

  • Trouble feeding or eating 
  • Issues gaining weight 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Faintness
  • Rapid breathing 
  • Tiredness and trouble while exercising 
  • Chest pains 


How will a heart defect affect a child?

Heart defects affect the structure of a child’s heart and the way it works, meaning the way the blood flows through the heart and out to the rest of the body is impacted. 

Many children with more serious heart defects will experience delays in their development. For example, it may take them longer to learn how to walk or talk compared to children without heart defects. They may also have lifelong problems with physical coordination, as well as potential learning difficulties.

Some learning difficulties can include:

  • Impaired memory
  • Problems expressing themselves through language 
  • Problems understanding language 
  • Difficulty keeping attention 
  • Poor planning abilities
  • Poor impulse control

Without the correct treatment, children may also suffer from other issues such as respiratory tract infections, pulmonary hypertension, sudden cardiac arrest and heart failure. 


Are there complications with heart murmurs in children?

Heart murmurs do not have any complications directly related to them. However, your child may have complications related to the condition that is causing the heart murmurs. 

As we’ve mentioned, a child with a heart defect may suffer from poor growth and development, as well as other potential serious issues. 


How are heart murmurs treated in children?

The treatment of your child’s heart murmur will depend on their symptoms, age and general health. It also depends on how severe their condition is. 

Although the sound of the murmur may be strong, many heart murmurs are actually normal and will not affect your child, with some heart murmurs going away on their own. 

If the murmur is caused by a congenital heart defect, treatment may include medicine, procedures or heart surgery to close the hole in the heart. The murmurs will then lessen once the condition has been treated. 


For help or advice on the topic discussed, please contact the team on 01204 800300 or email


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