Pediatric Vital Signs – What’s Normal for Your Child and What’s Not

Pediatric Vital Signs - What's Normal for Your Child and What's Not

Every person’s health is first determined by their vital signs. The same goes for your child. The foremost parameter of your kid’s health is its vital signs. Their doctor measures their vital signs in the routine check-up or whenever you visit them to check their health. Even you at home check their vital sign when you feel your child is unwell.  However, you need to understand that a kid’s normal vital signs are different from an adult’s normal vital signs. In fact, vital signs for kids keep changing as they grow. This means the normal vital signs for a newborn is different from an infant and a child. So as your baby grows his/her normal vital signs keep changing and should be measured as per the normal vital signs measurement mentioned for their age group.

What Are Vital Signs?

Vital signs are the clinical measurement of basic body functions to determine how the body is functioning. The four main vital signs- blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate (rate of breathing), and body temperature are routinely measured by medical professionals as they tell important information about the overall health of any person and are used to monitor or detect medical problems. However, blood pressure is generally not considered a vital sign though it is often measured with other vital signs by medical professionals. Vital signs or vitals as commonly known can be measured by self or by a family member at home.

Normal vital signs of adults are not the normal vital signs for children. Children’s vital signs differ from adults depending on their age. Some normal vital signs of children may be lower than adults and some might be higher.

Pediatric Vital Signs Normal Ranges

Though the children’s vital signs pediatric vitals differ from the normal adult vital signs, still there are normal vital signs for children of every age group based on which the medical professional can assess the health of the child and tell the parents how their child is doing. The vital signs chart is different for children of different age groups however the normal temperature for kids remains constant for kids of all age groups from infants to older children. The pediatric normal vitals for different age group kids are:

Vital Signs for Infants

Few of the normal infant vitals are different than older children and adults, as the normal heart rate for infant and respiratory rate is higher than an adult’s heart rate and respiratory rate. This is because the muscles of infants aren’t properly developed yet. This includes the heart muscles and the muscles required for breathing.  The infants’ heart due to immature muscle fibers cannot stretch much so it has to pump blood at a faster rate to maintain the proper blood flow throughout the body. As a result of this, the infant’s heart rate is faster or higher than an adult’s heart rate. As the infant gets older, their heart muscle develops so they can stretch and contract more, so their heart doesn’t need to pump blood faster and their heart rate comes down.

Although sometimes the infant’s heart rate could be irregular like it could be lower than the normal heart rate for an infant. Slow heart rate in infants could be potentially due to bradycardia which could be due to:

  • Not enough oxygen in the infant’s body
  • Low body temperature
  • A congenital heart problem
  • Any effects due to medication

There can be variations in vital signs in different infants as per their overall conditions, however, the average pediatric vital signs chart for infants are:

  • Heart rate (newborn to 1 month old):– 85 – 190 when the infant is awake.
  • Heart rate (1-month-old to 1-year-old):- 90- 190 when the infant is awake.
  • Respiratory rate:– 30- 60 times per minute
  • Body temperature:- 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit

Blood pressure is measured when taking vital signs although it is not considered a vital sign. The normal blood pressure in infants should be:

  • Neonate infant (96 hours old to 1-month-old):- 67-84 systolic blood pressure (top number) over 31-45 diastolic (bottom number)
  • 1 month to 1-year-old infant:- 72-105 systolic over 37-56 diastolic

Vital Signs for Toddlers

As the infant turns 1 year old his/her vital signs start advancing towards the adult vital sign values. The vital signs value for 1 to 2 years old toddler should be:

  • Heart rate:- 98-140 beats per minute
  • Respiratory rate:- 22-37 breaths per minute
  • Body temperature:- 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Blood pressure:- 86-106 systolic and 42-63 diastolic

Vital Signs for Preschoolers

As the kid is 3 to 5 years old, their muscles are more properly developed, so their vital signs chart is more similar to a normal adult’s vital chart than to the infant’s vital signs chart. The average vital signs values for pre-schooler age 3 to 5 years are:

  • Heart rate:- 80-120 beats per minute
  • Respiratory rate:- 20-28 breaths per minute
  • Body temperature:- 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Blood pressure:- 89-112 systolic and 46-72 diastolic

Vital Signs for Kids (6-Year-Old and Up)

For kids of age 6 years old and above the average vital signs are:

  • Heart rate:- 75-118 beats per minute
  • Respiratory rate:- 18-25 breaths per minute
  • Body temperature:- 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Blood pressure:- 97-120 systolic and 57-80 diastolic

When to See a Doctor

When to See a Doctor

As a parent, you can get anxious for your child’s health when you see them agitated or dull. You can take your child’s vital signs and in case they deviate significantly from the normal values of their age, then you need to call or visit the child’s doctor. Some scenarios when you need to see the doctor are:

  • Your child is breathing rapidly or with difficulty. Count your child’s respiratory rate by putting your hand on their chest and then feel how many times their chest rises and falls in a minute.
  • When you feel your child’s heart rate is rapid or slow. Measure the heart rate by feeling the brachial pulse inside their crook or bend of their arm.
  • When you feel your child’s body temperature is significantly more than normal.
  • When you feel your child’s blood pressure is high or low. Check the blood pressure by using automatic blood pressure or manual cuff.

Infants and older kids’ vital sign values will differ from the normal adult values and sometimes their vitals may vary from the normal vital values of their age group like their body temperature may differ at different times of the day. So a slightly different vital is not a cause for alarm or panic. However, if you feel your kid is not appearing well or is not active then check their vitals or call their doctor. The doctor can advise appropriately or ask you to visit them. In case your child has illness symptoms, then don’t hesitate to take them to their doctor or emergency medical care without delay.

Also Read:

How a Pediatric Endocrinologist Can Help Your Child?
Working Tips to Choose Paediatrician for Children
Secrets Related to Child’s Health by Paediatrician Parents