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Treating Children with High Blood Pressure

Blood Pressure

The MultiCare Mary Bridge Nephrology clinic evaluates and treats children with hypertension (high blood pressure). Approximately 5 percent of children have high blood pressure.

What is it?

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a medical condition in which blood pressure is elevated. Blood pressure is the force of the blood against the walls of the arteries.

Blood pressure has a top and a bottom number:


116 = Systolic
72 = Diastolic
  • Systolic Pressure (top): Pressure in the arteries when the heart pumps blood.
  • Diastolic Pressure (bottom): Pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes between beats.

There are many reasons children may have high blood pressure:

  • There may be an underlying medical problem such as kidney disease, endocrine disorders or heart disease.
  • Children who are overweight often have problems with high blood pressure
  • Medications, such as oral contraceptives, steroids and attention deficit disorder medications, may cause high blood pressure.
  • There may not always be an identifiable cause for high blood pressure. This is known as primary or essential hypertension.
  • Some children and teens get nervous just by going to the doctor’s office. They have high blood pressure at the doctor’s office and normal blood pressure at home. This is known as "white coat" hypertension.

Normal Blood Pressure for a Child

The normal blood pressure for a child is based many variables — including age, height and gender. The doctor will use a chart to determine the best blood pressure for your child.

Signs of High Blood Pressure in a Child

Most children do not have any symptoms of high blood pressure. Some children may experience the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Nosebleeds
  • Vision problems

Younger children may be irritable and have changes in their behavior. They may also show changes in school performance.

To help understand your child’s condition, your doctor will ask lots of questions and do a physical exam. He/she may also do some urine and/or blood tests. Your doctor may also want some blood pressure readings from home, which should be written down on a blood pressure log.

Your doctor may also order:

In addition to treating the underlying cause of your child's high blood pressure, lifestyle changes are an important part of the treatment plan.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Eat a Healthy, Low-Salt Diet

Here are more resources to obtain these goals:

Exercise 30 to 60 Minutes Daily

Avoid Smoking or Second Hand Smoke

Avoid Alcohol

Limit Caffeine


Some children need medicine to help lower blood pressure. Your doctor will discuss which medicine may be best for your child.

Long-Term Effects of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure that is not treated will slowly and surely damage the body over time. A person may not have symptoms or be aware that this is happening. This includes damage to your heart, brain, blood vessels, kidneys and eyes.

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