Atrial Septal Defect in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

The heart

The heart is a muscular pump that has four chambers. An atrial septal defect is an opening in the wall between the upper chambers of the heart. It is a type of congenital heart defect, which means that your child was born with it. When this defect is present, some of the blood may flow from one side of the heart through the hole to the other side. This can strain the heart.

A very small hole may not cause problems. Larger holes can weaken the heart and lead to heart failure. Your doctor will determine if the defect should be closed.

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 or nurse call line 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?

  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think your child is having a problem with the medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Heart defects can increase your child's risk of an infection in the heart. Talk to your doctor about your child's risk. Your child may need to take antibiotics before certain dental or surgical procedures to prevent infection.
  • Help your child eat heart-healthy foods, including lots of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, non-fat and low-fat dairy products, and whole grains.
  • If your child's doctor recommends it, help your child get regular exercise. Ask your doctor what types of activities and how much exercise is safe for your child.
  • Keep your child away from smoke. Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around your child or in your house. Being around smoke can make your child's heart problems worse.

When should you call for help?

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

  • Your child has severe trouble breathing.
  • Your child coughs up pink, foamy mucus and has trouble breathing.
  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or increased shortness of breath.
  • Your child is dizzy or light-headed, or your child feels like he or she may faint.
  • Your child has sudden weight gain in 2 to 3 days. Your child's doctor can tell you how much weight gain to watch for.
  • Your child has increased swelling in his or her legs, ankles, or feet.
  • Your child looks pale or blue.
  • Your child is suddenly so tired or weak that he or she cannot do his or her usual activities.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if your child has any problems.

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