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Symptoms of Pericarditis

The main symptom of pericarditis is chest pain. Often it’s a sharp, stabbing pain that comes on quickly. The pain tends to gets worse when the child lies down or breathes deeply and to get better when they sit up and lean forward. Sometimes it’s a dull pain, or it feels more like pressure in the chest.

A child with pericarditis might also feel weak or more tired than normal, or have a dry cough, fever or trouble breathing.

If there’s too much fluid pressing on the heart, the heart may not be able to fill with as much blood as it should. This is called cardiac tamponade (pronounced tam-pah-NAID). It can keep the heart from pumping enough blood to the body. This is dangerous and can make the blood pressure drop too low.

Pericarditis Diagnosis

To diagnose this condition, your doctor will examine your child and use a stethoscope to listen to their heart and lungs. Sometimes doctors can hear the sound of the pericardium rubbing on the heart or the sound of fluid in the pericardium or the lungs.

The doctor will ask for details about any symptoms your child has, their health history and your family health history.

Your child will need tests that provide more information about how their heart looks and works. These may include electrocardiogram, echocardiographychest X-rays, a CT (computed tomography) scan, or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the heart.

They may also need blood tests to check for infection.

Who Treats This at Seattle Children's?

Should your child see a doctor?

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Summer 2014: Good Growing Newsletter

In This Issue

  • Understanding the Power and Influence of Role Models
  • Legal Marijuana Means Greater Poisoning Risks for Children
  • Why Choose Pediatric Emergency Care?

Download Summer 2014 (PDF)