Every parent worries about unusual health symptoms in a child; a pulse or heart rate that seems too fast or slow naturally produces anxiety. Resting heart rate normally decreases as a child grows to adulthood. The normal heart rate for a 3-year-old child is 70 to 110 beats per minute. It is normal for a child's heart rate to have some variation. Causes for heart rate change include crying, fever or a high activity level.
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Finding the Pulse
You can best feel the pulse in places where an artery comes close to the skin. Common places to feel a pulse are the inside of the wrist near the side of the thumb, which is called the radial pulse. The carotid pulse is just under the lower jawbone, between the windpipe and neck muscle. For either location, use your index or middle finger to feel the pulse; don't use the thumb, which has its own pulse. Using a light touch and count the beats for one minute.
According to an article by J. White, et al., published in "Archives of Disease in Childhood," parents may not always get an accurate pulse. A study of 114 parents and their children concluded that parents of school age children could take an accurate pulse, but in preschool children, parents did not take accurate heart rates. The error rate increased for parents of preschool children as the restlessness of the child increased. To reliably measure heart rate in a 3-year-old, a visit to the doctor might prove necessary.
An abnormal heart rate is called an arrhythmia. The heart can beat too fast, a condition called tachycardia, or too slow, called bradycardia. True arrhythmias happen rarely, but when they do occur they can become serious. Early detection is crucial since arrhythmias can be treated. If your child's heart rate seems abnormal, consult your pediatrician.
Arrhythmia causes inefficient heartbeats, which in turn prevent the proper amount of blood from reaching the body. Arrhythmias can come and go, so symptoms may be sporadic or nonexistent. If a 3-year-old or child of any age exhibits the following symptoms call a pediatrician right away: unusual tiredness or weakness, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, shortness of breath, palpitations or fainting.