Disorders of the heart and lungs are relatively common in children. The heart is affected by birth defects more than any other organ, and all children have recurrent bacterial and viral infections of the throat and lungs. Usually these infections are mild and play a role in developing a healthy immune system.
The first articles in this section cover disorders of the cardiovascular system, such as congenital heart disease. Many heart abnormalities correct themselves without medical intervention as a child grows. Many of the more serious heart defects can now be treated successfully because of recent advances in surgical techniques. A rarer disorder that can affect the heart in children is Kawasaki disease, which damages the heart and blood vessels. In Henoch–Schönlein purpura, which is due to an abnormal response by the immune system, small blood vessels are damaged. In some cases, Henoch–Schönlein purpura can eventually cause kidney failure.
The final articles address respiratory disorders, of which asthma is the most common, affecting about 1 in 11 of all children in the UK. Respiratory tract infections, such as bronchiolitis and croup, are common in young children. The inflammatory disorder epiglottitis can be dangerous but is now rare in developed countries because of routine immunization of infants against Haemophilus influenzae type B, the bacterium responsible for causing the condition.Haemophilus influenzae type B, the bacterium responsible for causing the condition.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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