Pediatric Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension)
Hypotension, also called low blood pressure, happens when blood pressure falls below the normal range.
Normal blood pressure is between 90/60 and 130/80. The top number, or systolic pressure, is a measurement of the pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle contracts. The bottom number, or diastolic pressure, is a measurement of the pressure in the arteries between beats of the heart. Hypotension, or low blood pressure, happens when your child’s blood pressure falls below the normal range. A drop in blood pressure is not always a cause for concern, and the severity of the situation depends on the cause.
Three main types of low blood pressure in children include:
- Neurally mediated hypotension — This type of low blood pressure primarily affects children, and they usually outgrow it by adulthood. The blood pressure drop happens when a child has been standing for a long time.
- Orthostatic hypotension — This type of low blood pressure occurs when a child sits or stands up suddenly. It is a common reason for a drop in blood pressure and your child’s body will typically correct to normal blood pressure within a few seconds.
- Severe hypotension — This life-threatening drop in blood pressure happens suddenly when a child has an infection, has an anaphylaxis allergic reaction or experiences a traumatic injury that causes sudden blood loss. When severe hypotension occurs, it prevents oxygen from getting to the brain and other organs, leading to serious problems or can even be fatal.
The most common causes of low blood pressure in a child include:
- Anaphylaxis (life-threatening) allergic reaction
- Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm)
- Certain medications, including painkillers and anti-anxiety medicines
- Drinking alcohol (teenagers)
- Heart conditions
- Sudden position change, such as standing up quickly
Symptoms of low blood pressure in a child may include:
- Blurred vision
- Feeling weak
- Nausea or vomiting