My six-year-old has started having heart palpitations. We have recently moved house and I assumed that they are from the stress. I get palpitations and they are worse when I am stressed. Should I be worried?

Jane responds

I’m interested when you say “heart palpitations” in your six-year-old. Is this something you can feel as you place your hand on her chest, or what she’s describing? Either way, it’s important that you have her checked by a doctor. You should start with your GP who may refer her for to a paediatric cardiologist.

Although stress may be a contributing factor, and moving house is certainly high on the stress scale, it’s very important to rule out a physical cause for her heart to be beating in this way. Excluding a physiological cause, by a thorough examination and if necessary, cardiac testing will help you to focus on what else may be the real cause.

For many kids, stress does play a role in creating uncomfortable physical feelings such as a racing heart, nausea, sweaty palms, wanting to run away – all of which are related to surges of adrenaline.

Lots of kids who experience feelings of anxiety benefit from learning how to manage it. Early recognition of ‘triggers’ with self talk, breathing and CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) can all help.

Remember

If, as you say, you have heart palpitations when you are stressed, this will help you to build empathy with her. But your experience is not necessarily hers.

The first thing to do is to have her examined. In the meantime, it may help for you both to keep a diary of what you observe and when, in terms of linking symptoms with stressful events. Taking this for the appointment may help to build a clinical picture which will help with a correct diagnosis.