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High Blood Pressure in Children


What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is also called hypertension. Blood pressure (BP) is the force of blood moving against the walls of your child's arteries. The normal BP range for your child depends on his age, height, and sex. High blood pressure causes your child's heart to work harder than normal. Over time, high BP can cause health problems such as kidney, heart, and eye disease.

What causes or increases my child's risk for high BP?

The cause of high BP may not be known. This type of high blood pressure is called primary high BP. Older children usually have this type of high BP. Your child's risk of primary high BP is higher if he is overweight or has a family history of high BP. High BP can sometimes be caused by other medical conditions, such as kidney disease. This type is called secondary high BP and is more common in very young children.

How is high BP diagnosed?

Children over the age of 3 should have their BP checked at least once a year. Your child's healthcare provider will check his BP and weight and examine his heart, lungs, and eyes. Your child's healthcare provider will need to check his BP up to 3 times and take an average of the readings. He may also recommend that your child's BP be checked at home for a period of time. Your child's healthcare provider will ask if other family members have high BP. He will also ask about any medicines that your child takes or medical conditions he has. Your child's healthcare provider may also ask about his diet and physical activity level.

How is high BP treated?

Your child's healthcare provider will recommend lifestyle changes to lower your child's BP. Your child may also need BP medicines if lifestyle changes do not help to lower his BP. Your child may a need treatment for any medical conditions that are causing his high BP.

How can my child's BP be managed?

Your child will need to do the following to help lower his BP:

  • Lose weight. Work with your child's healthcare provider to help your child reach a healthy weight safely.
  • Exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Your child should get 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Examples include jogging or riding a bicycle. He should get more intense activity such as running or soccer on 3 days each week. Screen time should be limited to less than 2 hours each day. Examples of screen time include watching television and playing video or computer games.
  • Eat less sodium (salt). Do not add salt to your child's food. Limit foods that are high in sodium, such as canned foods, potato chips, and cold cuts. Your child's healthcare provider may suggest that he follow the DASH Eating Plan. This eating plan is low in sodium, unhealthy fats, and total fat. It is high in potassium, calcium, and fiber. Your child can get these nutrients by eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods. Ask the healthcare provider or dietitian which meal plan your child should follow.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine can damage your child's blood vessels and make it more difficult to manage his BP. Your child should not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help him quit. They still contain nicotine. Ask the healthcare provider for information if your child currently smokes and needs help quitting.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child has a severe headache or vision loss.
  • Your child is confused or dizzy.
  • Your child has a fast, forceful, uneven heartbeat.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child has nausea and vomiting.
  • Your child has frequent nosebleeds.
  • Your child develops new symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.