Supraventricular Tachycardia in Children: Care Instructions

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Cross section of the heart, showing its electrical system


When your child has supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), it means that sometimes their heart beats very fast. This fast rhythm is caused by connections that don't work right in the electrical system of the heart.

Most children with SVT can enjoy their normal activities. But it can cause symptoms, like a fluttering in the chest (palpitations), chest discomfort, and feeling lightheaded or tired.

Treatments can stop SVT. Treatments that are done in a hospital include medicine, cardioversion, or a procedure called catheter ablation.

There are things you and your child can do to help prevent and stop SVT when it happens. Your child may take medicine. Your doctor may also suggest that your child try vagal maneuvers to help slow their heart rate when they have an episode. The doctor can show you and your child how to do vagal maneuvers.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • If your child takes medicine, call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • If the doctor showed you and your child how to do vagal maneuvers, your child can try them during an episode. These maneuvers include bearing down or putting an ice-cold, wet towel on your child's face.
  • Help your child avoid drinks with caffeine.
  • Do not give your child over-the-counter decongestants. They often contain ingredients that make the heart beat faster (stimulants).
  • Monitor your child's condition by keeping a diary of any SVT episodes. Bring this to your child's doctor appointments. Start by counting your child's heart rate (take their pulse). Older children can learn to check and record their own heart rate. To check the heart rate:
    • Gently place 2 fingers of your hand on the inside of your child's wrist, below the thumb.
    • Count the beats for 30 seconds.
    • Then double the result to get the number of beats per minute.
  • After you check your child's heart rate, write down:
    • How fast or slow your child's heart was beating.
    • If the heart rhythm was regular or irregular.
    • What symptoms your child had.
    • The time of day the symptoms occurred.
    • How long the symptoms lasted.
    • What your child was doing when the symptoms started.
    • What may have helped the symptoms go away.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child is short of breath.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has tried vagal maneuvers but the symptoms don't go away.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child has new or worse symptoms.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.