A heart murmur is a noise that the blood makes as it flows through the heart. It's like the noise water makes when it flows through a hose. Heart murmurs are common in children and are usually harmless.
Heart murmurs don't necessarily mean that you are sick. Your doctor may call these murmurs "innocent" or "functional." An innocent murmur is just a noise caused by blood flowing through a normal heart. These noises are commonly heard in children because their hearts are very close to their chest walls.
An innocent murmur can get louder or softer depending on your child's heart rate, such as when they're excited or scared. Doctors often hear heart murmurs when they check children who have a fever. Many innocent murmurs become hard to hear as children grow older, and most usually go away on their own.
An innocent heart murmur does not pose a health threat. If your child has an innocent heart murmur, he or she can run, jump and play, with no limits on activity. Your child doesn't need to take any medicine or be careful in any special way.
Usually, your doctor will find a murmur during a regular exam. When listening to your heart with a stethoscope, your doctor may hear a "whooshing" sound. This sound is called a murmur.
If your doctor suspects a problem, he or she may choose to refer your child to a pediatric cardiologist. This is a kind of doctor who has spent extra time learning about children's hearts. The cardiologist will examine your child and might do tests to find out if there is a problem. These tests include chest X-ray, electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) or echocardiogram (sometimes called an "echo").
Sometimes a heart murmur indicates a problem with your child's heart, such as:
Remember, innocent heart murmurs are very common in healthy children with normal hearts, and pose no health threats. If you have any questions about your child's heart murmur, talk to your family doctor.
Heart Murmurs in Pedatric Patients: When Do You Refer? by ME McConnell, M.D., SB Adkins III, M.D., and DW. Hannon, M.D. (American Family Physician August 01, 1999, http://www.aafp.org/afp/990800ap/558.html)
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff