Normal Pulse Rates for Kids

Pediatric Basics

Doctor examining baby with stethoscope
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Parents often know that their own pulse rate or heart rate should be within about 60-100 beats per minute. They are often surprised that younger kids can normally have a higher pulse rate than adults. 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 might even help you identify a slow or fast pulse rate when your child is sick.

Normal Pulse Rates for Kids

Even before you begin to think about what your child's normal pulse rate might be, it is important to keep in mind that there are a lot of different pulse rates that experts talk about.

For example, there is the resting pulse rate, which is basically the average pulse rate listed below. This is not to be confused with the target heart rate that you might hear some people talk about. That's the level your heart rate should likely reach while exercising to make sure you are getting an effective workout.

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

Average Pulse Rates

So how fast should your child's heart be beating?

A child will usually be close, having an average pulse rate for his age when he is at rest, and is not crying, running, or playing. During crying or physical activity, a child's pulse rate may climb to the upper limits of normal for his age and it may drop to the lower limits of normal when he is sleeping.

The average pulse rate also depends on your child's age:

  • Newborn - 125 beats/min (ranging from 70-190 beats/min)
  • Infant - 120 beats/min (ranging from 80-160 beats/min)
  • Toddler - 110 beats/min (ranging from 80-130 beats/min)
  • Preschooler - 100 beats/min (ranging from 80-120 beats/min)
  • Six years old - 100 beats/min (ranging from 75-115 beats/min)
  • Eight years old - 90 beats/min (ranging from 70-110 beats/min)
  • Ten years old - 90 beats/min (ranging from 70-110 beats/min)
  • Twelve years old (girls) - 90 beats/min (ranging from 70-110 beats/min)
  • Twelve years old (boys) - 85 beats/min (ranging from 65-105 beats/min)
  • Fourteen years old (girls) - 85 beats/min (ranging from 65-105 beats/min)
  • Fourteen years old (boys) - 80 beats/min (ranging from 60-100 beats/min)
  • Sixteen years old (girls) - 80 beats/min (ranging from 60-100 beats/min)
  • Sixteen years old (boys) - 75 beats/min (ranging from 55-95 beats/min)
  • Eighteen years old (girls) - 75 beats/min (ranging from 55-95 beats/min)
  • Eighteen years old (boys) - 70 beats/min (ranging from 50-90 beats/min)

As you can see, younger kids normally have faster heart rates than teenagers.

On the other hand, very athletic teens can have resting pulse rates as low as 40-50 beats/min.

Slow and Fast Heart Rates

A child's pulse rate can be normal, fast (tachycardia), or slow (bradycardia). In some forms of tachycardia, like supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), the heart rate might get over 220 beats/min.

Or a child with bradycardia might have a heart rate less than 50 beats/min.

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

Also talk-your pediatrician if your child always seems to be at either the upper or lower limits of normal -- for example, if he is at the lower range of normal for his pulse rate, even when he is running around and playing, or if he is always at the upper range of normal for his pulse rate, even when he is sleeping.

Don't forget that caffeine can affect your child's heart rate. Does your child with a high resting heart rate drink coffee, energy drinks, or several sodas a day?

Another factor that can affect your child's resting heart rate can include side effects of some medications. While you might expect that a stimulant for ADHD might raise your child's heart rate, your might be surprised to find that a decongestant can too. A high resting heart rate can also be associated with pain, fever, anemia, hyperthyroidism, and some other conditions.

Sources:

American Heart Association. Target Heart Rates. Accessed October 2016.

Kliegman: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 18th ed.

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