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Cardiomyopathy Factsheet (for Schools)

What Teachers Should Know

Cardiomyopathy is when the heart muscle becomes weak and enlarged, which makes it hard to pump blood through the body. There are many types of cardiomyopathies. Some make the heart muscle thicker, while others stretch the heart muscle thinner. As a result, the heart muscle doesn't work as well.

Most of the time, the cause of the cardiomyopathy isn't known. Cardiomyopathy can run in families or happen as a result of infections, nutritional deficiencies, or other conditions.

If it's not treated, cardiomyopathy can lead to a life-threatening arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), heart valve problems, blood clots, and heart failure. Cardiomyopathy is the top reason for heart transplants in kids and teens.

Signs and symptoms associated with cardiomyopathy include:

  • being very tired after normal activity
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
  • shortness of breath
  • irregular heartbeat

Students with cardiomyopathy might need to:

  • take medications to reduce symptoms
  • visit the school nurse to take medications
  • have seating closest to a bathroom if they take blood pressure medicine that causes frequent urination
  • use elevators, wheelchairs, or assistive devices, and need extra time to get to classrooms

They also might:

  • have an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) or pacemaker. If so, they might not be able to play contact sports or do other activities.
  • wear a ventricular assistive device (VAD) to help with circulation
  • miss class time due to doctor appointments
  • have a special diet and need to carry a water bottle throughout the day
  • have an individualized exercise plan (IEP) based on the child's abilities and limitations, as set by the doctor
  • be smaller than their peers, making them a target for bullying

Schools might be required to have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training and have an easy-to-access automated external defibrillator (AED).

What Teachers Can Do

Support students with cardiomyopathy by encouraging them to join in all classroom activities, making changes as needed. They might need special considerations for missed instruction time, assignments, and testing.

Ask about any doctor-recommended restrictions before having students with cardiomyopathy do physical activities. Usually, they're encouraged to get modest exercise. Watch for symptoms that need quick medical care, including trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting, or a rapid or irregular heartbeat.

Teachers should know CPR and also know about emergency care plans in case of a cardiac emergency.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date Reviewed: Nov 18, 2019

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