Rural health camps find worrying number of children have heart diseasesHeart problems in children are increasing due to unhealthy food habits and environmental pollution, experts say.
Heart diseases have emerged as a major health challenge for children in Dolakha, a central hill district of Bagmati Province. Health workers speculate that the number of children suffering from heart diseases is on the rise especially after the Covid-19 pandemic hit the district.
Recent health camps set up targeting children between five and 15 years show heart issues in children. With support from the Nepal Heart Foundation, Dhulikhel Hospital had organised a health camp at Trikuteshwar Secondary School, a community school in Kirnetar of Tamakoshi Rural Municipality-5, on February 14. As many as six children were diagnosed with heart problems while conducting heart check-ups on 106 children above five years.
Similarly, six other children were found suffering from rheumatic heart disease during a three-day health camp organised at the District Hospital, Dolakha this week.
“We conducted health checkups on 300 children and found twelve were suffering from heart ailments. The rate of heart patients among children is quite high,” said Dr Anish Joshi, a senior cardiologist at Dhulikhel Hospital in Kavre. According to him, the number of heart patients among children is low. “When we examine 1,000 children for heart ailments, we find one child with heart problems but this time the number is astounding,” said Joshi.
Dhulikhel Hospital, with support from the Nepal Heart Foundation, has launched a free heart checkup campaign for children in Dolakha. The hospital reaches out to communities and conducts tests on children by using an electrocardiogram and an ultrasound machine.
According to experts, heart disease among children is increasing in recent years mainly due to unhealthy food habits and environmental pollution. Lack of regular health check-up during pregnancy and lack of nutritious food during pregnancy can also cause heart problems in children. “There will be problems in future if heart ailment is not identified in children on time. Treatment is possible if the disease is diagnosed on time,” said Shrestha.
According to Shrestha, four of the 12 children in Dolakha suffering from heart disease have inborn heart problems while eight others may have rheumatic heart disease. Dr Shrestha suspects that heart disease is increasing in children after the Covid-19 pandemic. “Many children in remote villages might be suffering from Covid-19 but are deprived of proper treatment and this causes health complications. We are still conducting research on the subject,” said Shrestha.
Most of the children with heart diseases, according to Shrestha, are prone to pneumonia and are underweight. The federal government provides treatment free of cost for heart disease among children. Of late, heart diseases are increasing among the children mainly due to the carelessness and lack of awareness among their parents.
According to Raj Kumar Dangal, the medical superintendent at Dolakha Hospital, heart problems among children have been increasing in the district for the past few years. “We have started the campaign to screen the hearts of the children and raise heart health awareness by visiting communities,” said Dangal.