Infections of the heart in children


Children can have three different types of infections or inflammations of the heart. All three variants are unusual. The infections are caused by viruses or bacteria, which spread to the heart. It can happen when the child has an infection elsewhere in the body or during surgery. It can also occur without knowing the cause.

Heart infections are uncommon and do not infect humans. They can be caused by viruses or bacteria that enter the body in the same way as in common infections, such as colds. In very rare cases, these viruses or bacteria then spread to the heart and cause an infection there.

There are three different types of infections or inflammations in the heart:

  • Myocarditis is most common.
  • Myocardial infarction, pericarditis, is second most common.
  • Cardiac infections, endocarditis, are the least common.

This text is about all three states.

Here you can read more about the difference between infection and inflammation.

Heart muscle inflammation, myocarditis

An inflammation of the heart muscle is called myocarditis. If you get inflammation of the heart muscle, the ability of the heart to pump around the blood in the body is impaired. The inflammation can be caused by a viral infection and infects in the same way as for example common colds. Heart inflammation itself is not contagious but is a complication of the viral infection. Heart muscle inflammation can also be caused by bacteria or parasites, but it is very uncommon.

Symptoms of cardiac muscle inflammation

Sometimes, heart muscle inflammation can affect the heart’s ability to work and cause palpitations and heart failure. This is felt as fatigue, reduced energy and shortness of breath. The baby can also get swollen eyelids and gain weight due to fluid accumulating in the body.

It is uncommon for it to hurt your chest. If it does in case of inflammation of the heart, it sits more often in the heartbeat.

The child may have heart muscle inflammation in conjunction with a cold or flu without any particular symptoms. You only see changes in ECG or blood tests and not the symptoms of cardiac muscle inflammation.

When and where should I seek care?

If you think your child has myocardial infarction, contact a health care center or an on-call clinic. If closed, you can wait until the on-call reception or medical center opens.

Can heart muscle inflammation be prevented?

Myocardial inflammation itself cannot be prevented, but the infections that cause it can be reduced with good hand hygiene. Wash your hands when you are out, when you are in the toilet and before eating. Use hand spirit.

Children with heart muscle inflammation should avoid exercise

If the child is exercising with heart muscle inflammation, there is a risk that they will have severe rhythm disorders. It is therefore important that the child avoids physical exertion, such as sports, during inflammation of the heart muscle. They are often allowed to do a work test some time after the inflammation has healed to start exercising again. Work tests mean that, under supervision with the ECG, at a medical clinic, an effort is made on an exercise bike or a treadmill. Even if the child does not have secured myocardial infarction, they should avoid training for fever and sore throat .


Heart muscle inflammation is usually harmless and usually heals by itself. There is no treatment that affects the heart muscle inflammation itself. All treatment is therefore about alleviating complaints. Sometimes the child may need treatment with medicines. These may be painkillers, medicines for heart failure or medicines for rhythm disorders. In very few cases, the inflammation is caused by bacteria that can be treated with antibiotics.


To see if a child has a heart muscle inflammation they may undergo an ECG examination and submit blood tests. Often, the child may also do a chest x-ray . The heart’s function can also be examined with ultrasound. In some cases, a magnetic camera examination can also be done.


In most cases, cardiac muscle inflammation heals without complications. In unusual cases, children may get rhythm disorders that go away after a while. In very rare cases, heart function can become so impaired that the child needs intensive care. In extremely rare cases, a heart transplant may be necessary. 

Myocardial infarction, pericarditis

In case of inflammation of the heartbeat, fluid is formed in the connective tissue that is around the heart muscle and holds the heart in place. Myocardial infarction can be caused by viruses, but usually has no known cause. It can occur after a heart operation and rarely in connection with a serious infection with bacteria in the blood. Myocardial infarction usually has no known cause and therefore does not infect, but it can sometimes be caused by viruses, which can infect like a common cold.

Myocardial infarction may also be associated with myocarditis, and is then called perimyocarditis.

Symptoms of myocardial infarction

Myocardial infarction usually causes pain in the form of chest pain. These often get worse when inhaled and when the baby is lying down. They can sometimes also have symptoms similar to the flu , such as coughing and pain in the body. In rare cases, inflammation can affect the heart’s ability to work, causing palpitations and heart failure. The child then gets short of breath and is very tired.

When and where should I seek care?

If you think your child has myocardial infarction, contact a health center or emergency room immediately. If closed, seek care at an emergency room. 

Can myocardial infarction be prevented?

Myocardial infarction cannot be prevented.

Children should avoid sports if they do not feel well

Sometimes inflammation occurs in both the heartbeat and heart muscle. It is then important that the child avoids physical exertion, such as sports. 


Myocardial infarction is usually harmless and usually heals by itself. It is often treated with drugs that curb inflammation and are pain-relieving.

If the child has a lot of fluid in the heart bag, the child may need to be taken to hospital. The fluid in the pericardium may then need to be drained. Then a needle is inserted into the heart sac and the fluid is sucked out. She may have a tube in her heartbeat for a few days. Young children are anesthetized with anesthesia. For older children, local anesthesia usually works well.
Afterwards, the child may go on tight checks. Sometimes new fluid is formed and it needs to be drained again.


To see if the child has myocardial infarction, they should undergo ECG examination, pulmonary x-ray and they may have blood tests. Ultrasound is also used, as the fluid in the heart sac can be seen with ultrasound.


Myocardial infarction almost always heals without any complications. In unusual cases, the fluid in the heartbag and disorders may recur and require more drug treatment. Occasionally, this happens several times over a long period of time. Most people who relapse get it within six months.

Infection of the heart valves, endocarditis

The membrane covering the heart valves or the inside of the heart may become infected. It is called endocarditis and is usually caused by bacteria. The disease is more common in children who have congenital heart defects, but is also very rare then. An infection of the heart valves does not infect humans. It can only occur if bacteria enters the bloodstream and spreads to the heart valves. Bacteria can enter the blood from the oral cavity if the child has poor dental health or sometimes through a wound on the skin. Occasionally, it may happen if the child gets a tooth extracted or during other mouth operations.

Symptoms of a heart valve infection

The most common symptom is fever . The child may also become tired and short of breath. In unusual and severe cases, they get bleeding in the skin around the nails.

When and where should I seek care?

If the child has had a fever for more than four days, contact a health care center or an on-call reception. If closed, you can wait until the on-call reception or medical center opens.

Immediately contact a pediatric or emergency room if you know the child has a congenital heart failure and has had a fever for more than four days.

Can heart valve infection be prevented?

All children should visit dentists regularly and take care of their teeth carefully. This also prevents infections of the heart valves. Children with congenital heart defects are much more likely to have heart valve infection than other children, so for them this is extra important. The child can sometimes get antibiotics from the dentist. The treatment is given for preventative purposes, so that no infection should occur. Good oral hygiene and carefully maintained teeth are much more important than antibiotics.


An infection of the heart valves or the inside of the heart is treated with antibiotics. The child receives the drug directly into the blood. The antibiotic is given several times a day and taken to hospital. The treatment lasts for several weeks. Occasionally, the infection may result in the operation of the infected flap.


To find an infection in the heart valves, the child has to undergo blood tests for bacterial growth and undergo an ultrasound. It is important that children with heart failure and unclear fever do not receive antibiotics without a blood test first. In some children, traces of the infection of the heart valves can be detected with ultrasound.


Most infections of the heart valves heal without persistent trouble with antibiotic therapy. Occasionally, the infection can damage the valve so severely that it must be operated on. In very rare cases, infected material from the valve can come loose and flow with the blood to other organs, such as the brain or kidneys. This can lead to damage to the body where the material gets stuck, but this is very unusual.

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