In both children and adults, a resting heart rate (also called your pulse), is the number of times a heart beats each minute that a person is at rest. Heart rates that are erratic or too high or too low can indicate an underlying health problem.
What Is a Normal Resting Heart Rate for Kids?
Resting heart rates in kids vary depending on the child's age. In general, our heart rates tend to decrease as we get older.
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A 3- to 4-year-old child's heart rate should be about 80 to 120 beats per minute, whereas for 5- to 6-year-olds, it should be about 75 to 115 beats per minute, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. For children between the ages of 7 and 9, the resting heart rate should range from about 70 to 100 beats per minute. Expect children ages 10 and older, including teenagers (and even adults), to have a normal pulse of about 60 to 100 beats per minute.
Read more: How Does Exercise Affect Your Heart Rate?
How to Measure Your Child's Heart Rate
Generally speaking, there's no reason to check your child's pulse unless you suspect that they're not feeling well, says Amalia Guardiola, MD, a pediatrician and an associate professor with McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UT Health). Some underlying causes of a fast heart rate include dehydration and an underlying infection, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
If you do want to measure your child's resting heart rate, the best place to find a pulse is on the wrists, the inside of the elbow, the side of the neck or the top of the foot, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Once you choose a location, place your finger over the pulse and count the number of heart beats that you feel during the next 60 seconds. (Alternately, if it's hard to get your child to stand still, count the heart beats for 30 seconds, and then double that number.)
Keep in mind, too, that a number of factors can affect the reading — for example, being stressed or anxious can result in a higher pulse, according to the AHA. Your pediatrician should also measure your child's heartbeat at every checkup, says Dr. Guardiola.
Read more: 10 Weird Side Effects of Stress
What to Do About Abnormal Heart Rates in Children
First, know that it's normal for your child's heart rate to vary, according to the AHA. (For example, their pulse will likely be higher after active play or exercise and lower while they sleep.)
If you suspect your child has an abnormal heartbeat, talk to your doctor. It's possible that your child is ill, or that he or she has an arrhythmia (or abnormal heart rhythm). Arrhythmias are much more common in adults than children, according to the AHA.
Some arrhythmias include tachycardia, a high resting heart rate, and bradycardia, a low resting heart rate. The most common type of tachycardia in kids is supraventricular tachycardia (SVT); for kids with SVT, the heart's upper chambers fire abnormal electrical signals, accounting for a faster-than-normal heartbeat. The AHA points out that SVT isn't usually life-threatening, nor do children necessarily need treatment.
If your child's heart rate is too high and doesn't return to a normal rate after a period of time, the Nemours Children's Health System recommends giving your doctor a call.