Taking a Child’s Pulse

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A child’s pulse rate is a measure of the number of times the heart beats per minute. As the heart pushes blood through the arteries, the arteries expand and contract with the flow of the blood, which can be felt in various points in the body. A child’s pulse is a measure not only of the heart rate but also the heart’s rhythm, and the strength of the pulse (a weak pulse could indicate heart failure, a fast heartbeat in which some beats are too weak to feel, or a low volume of blood in the circulatory system).

A child’s pulse rate may fluctuate and increase with exercise, illness, injury, and emotions. Typically, girls over age 12 and women have faster heart rates than do boys and men. Athletes who do a lot of cardiovascular conditioning may have much slower heart rates.

A child’s pulse is taken in the following steps:

1. The first and second fingertips are pressed firmly but gently on the arteries until a pulse is felt. Typically, the arteries can be felt either in the wrist or throat.

2. The pulse should be counted for 60 seconds (or for 15 seconds, which is then multiplied by four to calculate beats per minute).
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