Normal Pulse Rates for Kids

Normal heart rate ranges differ by age

A pediatrician is examining a child with a stethoscope
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Many parents know that their own pulse or heart rate should be within about 60 to 100 beats per minute. You may be surprised that your children will typically have a higher pulse rate. Depending on their age, children can have a pulse between 43 and 180 beats per minute. Babies have the highest pulses and it slows down as a child grows.

Knowing what a normal pulse rate is and how to check your child's pulse can help you avoid unnecessary worry about your child's heart rate.

It can also help you identify a slow or fast pulse when your child is sick and let you know when to seek medical attention.

How to Take Your Child’s Pulse

Your heart rate, also called your pulse, is the number of times your heart beats every minute. You can measure your child’s pulse by placing your finger on his or her wrist, inside the elbow, the side of the neck, or the top of the foot. These sites represent areas of the body where an artery lies. For example, the carotid artery is in the neck and the radial artery is in the wrist.

You will know you have their pulse when you feel a throbbing or a beating. Once you find it, count the number of beats you hear in a 60-second period. Alternatively, you can count the number of beats you feel in 30 seconds and then multiply that number by two. Use a clock with a second hand or a stopwatch to track the time.

Many cell phones have a stopwatch built in, which is very convenient.

You might also be able to find an app for your phone that measures the pulse. Quite often, it requires you to place a finger on the camera lens, so it may not be a good choice for young children who cannot hold still.

Resting Pulse Rate and Target Heart Rate

Before looking at what is considered a normal pulse rate, it is important to keep in mind that experts talk about a couple different rates.

The resting pulse rate is your heart rate when you are not exercising, such as when you are watching a movie or reading a book. This is what you want to measure for your children.

You may also hear the term target heart rate, though this is used more often for adolescents and adults. This is the ideal level your heart rate should reach while exercising. It is useful when you want to make sure you are getting an effective workout.

Normal Heart Rates for Children

A child’s resting pulse rate for his age is measured when he is at rest and not crying, running, or playing. During crying or physical activity, a child's pulse rate may climb to the upper limits of what is normal for his age. Likewise, it may drop to the lower limits of normal when he is sleeping.

Listed are the normal ranges of heart rates in children from birth to 18 years of age based on a large review study in Lancet. These measurements are taken from children at rest and in infants who are awake and healthy. The median number is listed as the "resting heart rate" and represents the middle heart rate of the whole sample.

This being said, it’s best to talk with your pediatrician if you have concerns about your child’s pulse.

There are some inconsistencies among various reference ranges for pediatric heart rate. Your pediatrician can give you a more accurate normal rate specifically for your child. Use this as a guide, but not a hard and fast rule.

AgeResting Heart RateNormal Range
0 to 3 months143 beats/minute107 to 181 beats/minute
3 to 6 months140 beats/minute104 to 175 beats/minute
6 to 9 months134 beats/minute98 to 168 beats/minute
9 to 12 months128 beats/minute93 to 161 beats/minute
12 to 18 months116 beats/minute88 to 156 beats/minute
18 months to 24 months116 beats/minute82 to 149 beats/minute
2 to 3 years110 beats/minute76 to 142 beats/minute
3 to 4 years104 beats/minute70 to 136 beats/minute
4 to 6 years98 beats/minute65 to 131 beats/minute
6 to 8 years91 beats/minute59 to 123 beats/minute
8 to 12 years84 beats/minute52 to 115 beats/minute
12 to 15 years78 beats/minute47 to 108 beats/minute
15 to 18 years73 beats/minute43 to 104 beats/minute

As you can see, younger children normally have faster heart rates than teenagers. On the other hand, very athletic teens can have resting pulse rates as low as 40 to 50 beats per minute. This is because they are so fit that their heart muscle does not have to work or pump as hard to get blood through the body.

Slow and Fast Heart Rates

A child's pulse rate can be normal, fast (this is called tachycardia), or slow (this is called bradycardia). In some forms of tachycardia, like supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), the heart rate might get over 220 beats per minute. A child with bradycardia might have a heart rate less than 50 beats per minute.

Keep in mind that a very fast or slow heart rate can be a medical emergency. This is especially true if your child has any symptoms associated with it, such as fainting (syncope), dizziness, or extreme irritability.

You should seek medical attention right away if your child has symptoms linked to a fast or slow heart rate. It's also important to talk to your pediatrician if your child always seems to be at either the upper or lower limits of normal. For example, tell your child's doctor if:

  • He is in the lower range of normal for his pulse rate, even when he is running around and playing.
  • He is always in the upper range of normal for his pulse rate, even when he is sleeping.

A heart rate above the upper limit of normal may be a sign of an underlying heart condition. It may also be a clue that other problems are going on in the body like an infection or a metabolic condition.

A pulse can also be regular or it can be irregular, which can be a sign of a heart problem.

Evaluation of an Abnormal Heart Rate

If your pediatrician is concerned about your child’s heart rate, she may order some tests to see if there is an underlying heart abnormality. For example, in addition to your child's pulse, your doctor may also check his blood pressure and order an electrocardiogram (ECG, also called an EKG).

The ECG allows your doctor to not only verify your child’s heart rate, but also the rhythm, or electrical activity, of the heart. It can also provide clues on whether the heart is enlarged or working too hard. In some instances, your doctor may refer you to a pediatric cardiologist, a specialist in heart conditions for children.

In addition to heart problems, your doctor may also check blood tests, such as a complete blood count or a thyroid test. This is because conditions like anemia or hyperthyroidism can cause a fast heart rate.

More Causes of a High Heart Rate

Sometimes the culprit behind a child’s fast heart rate is something much easier to fix. For example, one controllable factor is caffeine. A child may develop a high resting heart rate if he consumes coffee, energy drinks, or several sodas throughout the day.

The side effects of some medications can also affect a child's resting heart rate. While you might expect that a stimulant for ADHD might raise your child's heart rate, you may be surprised to learn that an over-the-counter decongestant can do so as well.

A high resting heart rate can be associated with pain, dehydration, or a fever. If the high heart rate is attributed to these factors, then reversal of them should bring the heart rate back to the normal range. For example, if a child is sick with a high fever then he may have a high heart rate. Treating the fever with Tylenol (acetaminophen) and fluids should bring the heart rate back to normal.

A Word From Verywell

Listening to your child’s heart beating away is a truly beautiful moment. The fact that a child’s heart often naturally beats faster than his parents is somewhat symbolic of their vivaciousness and zest for life. That being said, while gaining knowledge about your child's heart rate is sensible, be sure to reach out to your pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns.

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Article Sources
  • American Heart Association. All About Heart Rate (Pulse). 2018. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/GettheFactsAboutHighBloodPressure/All-About-Heart-Rate-Pulse_UCM_438850_Article.jsp.
  • Fleming S, et al. Normal Ranges of Heart Rate and Respiratory Rate in Children From Birth to 18 Years of Age: A Systematic Review of Observational Studies. Lancet. 2011;377(9770):1011-8. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(10)62226-X.
  • Kliegman R, Stanton B, W. SGJ, Schor NF, Behrman RE. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016.