High Blood Pressure in Children
(Hypertension in Children)
by Rebecca J. Stahl, MA
Blood pressure is the force of blood on the blood vessel walls. High blood pressure is one that is higher than normal. It is measured as 2 numbers:
High blood pressure can cause damage to blood vessels and certain organs. The damage gets worse over time. It can lead to a higher risk of heart and kidney disease or stroke in early adulthood.
The cause of high blood pressure will depend on type:
Things that may increase the risk of essential high blood are:
Things that may increase the risk of secondary high blood are:
High blood pressure will often not cause any symptoms. Some children may:
Normal blood pressure in children is different from adults. It will also vary by gender, age, and height. The range of normal blood pressure will change as the child grows.
Blood pressure is measured at least once per year after 3 years of age. A chart will show what a healthy blood pressure range based on child’s gender, age, and height. A high blood pressure needs to happen on more than 1 measurement to be diagnosed. The doctor may also ask that a measurement be done at home. This will rule out normal increased blood pressure due to anxiety at a doctor's office.
Other tests may be done to look for a cause.
The treatment plan will be based on the cause. Treating related conditions may return blood pressure to normal.
Steps that may treat essential high blood pressure or manage secondary high blood pressure are:
Some blood pressure may not be lowered by above changes. Medicine may then be needed. Types of blood pressure medicine are:
It is important to treat high blood pressure. It can prevent serious health issues in adulthood.
Healthy habits can help prevent some types of high blood pressure:
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Flynn JT, Kaelber DC, Baker-Smith CM, et al; Subcommittee on Screening and Management of High Blood Pressure in Children. Clinical Practice Guideline for Screening and Management of High Blood Pressure in Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics. 2017 Sep;140(3).
Hypertension in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dyname... . Updated June 20, 2018. Accessed December 31, 2019.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents. NHLBI Oct 2012. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/guidelines/peds_guidelines_full.pdf. Accessed December 31, 2019.
Screening and treating kids for high blood pressure: AAP report explained. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at:
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Updated August 21, 2017. Accessed December 31, 2019.
Last reviewed December 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 12/31/2019