Back-to-School Protection From the Leading Cause of Death on Campus

What parents can do protect young hearts from sudden cardiac arrest as they head back to school

Take the Prevention Promise

Did you know that one child suffers sudden cardiac arrest nearly every hour each year? In fact, studies show that 1 in 300 youth have an undetected heart condition that puts them at risk. Even so, cardiac risk assessments and heart screenings are not a standard part of well-child checkups or pre-participation physical examinations  – even though the first symptom of sudden cardiac arrest is often death for thousands of kids.

As families prepare for Back to School, Parent Heart Watch urges parents to Take the Prevention Promise to protect their kids from sudden cardiac arrest—the leading cause of death on school campuses.

Sudden cardiac arrest is the #1 killer of student athletes and contributes to the #2 medical cause of death under age 25. As parents we spend time and money preparing kids to participate in the activities they love, but we often overlook being sure their hearts are healthy enough to play.

Martha Lopez-Anderson, Parent Heart Watch Executive Director

An American Board of Family Medicine study noted that 72% of youth who had a sudden cardiac arrest were reported by their parents to have had at least one cardiovascular symptom before the event—they just didn’t recognize it as life threatening. Parents are their children’s best advocates so it’s important to educate yourself and other adults who engage with your children about potential warning signs and symptoms:

• fainting   
• chest pain or discomfort   
• racing heart, palpitations or irregular beat   
• shortness of breath   
• dizziness or lightheadedness       
• unusual fatigue  

While some schools and sports teams require parents to complete a medical history form, it’s often done without even consulting the child. Parents assume that if their child hasn’t mentioned any issues, they’re fine. But if a child has lived with these symptoms all their life, they may not recognize it as unusual. Sometimes they don’t want to admit they can’t keep up with their team. Or, they (or their parents) do not want to jeopardize their playing time.

Still, heart conditions may not present with symptoms. And most of these conditions cannot be heard with a stethoscope. That’s why it’s important to ask your doctor about getting an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). It’s a quick, painless, non-invasive test that evaluates atypical heart rhythms caused by electrical or structural abnormalities that a child is born with or can develop as they grow.

What can parents do to properly evaluate their child’s heart health?

1.     Evaluate your family heart history, especially if someone died under the age of 50 from a heart condition or unexplained death, as many heart conditions are hereditary

2.     Complete a cardiac risk assessment with your child

3.     Discuss the cardiac risk assessment at each doctor’s appointment

4.     Ask your doctor about getting an EKG heart screening for your child

5.     Visit Parent Heart Watch for a list of free or low-cost youth heart screenings in your area

6.     Seek feedback from coaches, counselors or caregivers about any symptoms

7.     Request free posters and flyers from Parent Heart Watch for your community

Take the Prevention Promise now and get free sudden cardiac arrest prevention resources in our 5 to Stay Alive Toolkit at

Parent Heart Watch is the national voice solely dedicated to protecting youth from sudden cardiac arrest and preventable sudden cardiac death.  Parent Heart Watch leads and empowers others by sharing information, educating and advocating for change.  Our vision is to eliminate preventable deaths and disabilities from sudden cardiac in youth by 2030.

Source: Parent Heart Watch

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About Parent Heart Watch

Parent Heart Watch (PHW) is the national voice solely dedicated to protecting youth from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) and preventable Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD). Our mission is to empower communities to champion prevention through critical education.

Parent Heart Watch
2624 Whitman Drive
Wilmington, DE


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