A child’s blood pressure reading is one indicator of overall health. A hypertension diagnosis can prompt parents to intervene with healthy lifestyle changes, including a more nutritious diet, more physical exercise, and reduced stress. Refer to this quick guide to using an adult blood pressure cuff on children.
Factors of an Accurate BP Measurement
Blood pressure measurement accuracy depends on patient preparation, patient positioning, measurement technique, and cuff size. The cuff bladder width should cover about 40 percent of the circumference of the upper arm, and the cuff should cover about 80 percent of the arm from the elbow to the shoulder.
In a study done by Dr. Ruchi Gupta Mahajan, clinicians tested the effects of using the wrong-sized blood pressure cuff on children. On 137 children, they compared the readings from a blood pressure cuff of the appropriate size, one size too small, and one size too large. The findings revealed that the larger cuff gave systolic blood pressure readings an average of 5 mm Hg less than the true reading. The smaller cuff gave systolic blood pressure readings an average of 5 mm Hg over the true reading.
Whenever possible, use a blood pressure cuff of the right size. But when the blood pressure cuff is one size larger, you can still make a decent estimate of the true blood pressure.
Steps for Taking Blood Pressure
Do not take a child’s blood pressure reading within 30 minutes of the child eating, drinking, or exercising. Let the child sit quietly for five minutes. The child should sit with back support, legs uncrossed, feet touching the floor, and upper arm bared. Neither the child nor the person taking the measurement should talk at any point in the procedure.
One key tip for using an adult blood pressure cuff on children is that the child’s upper arm should be supported at heart level. If the upper arm is below the heart, the BP reading will be too high. If the upper arm is higher than heart level, the BP reading will be too low.
Deflate the mercury column at 2 to 3 mm per second. Record the first sound as systolic pressure and the last sound as diastolic pressure. Measure to the nearest 2 mm Hg.
How Often To Take a Child’s BP Reading
Routinely monitoring a child’s blood pressure gives clinicians and parents an accurate idea of the child’s health. Since the healthy blood pressure range changes with age and body size, it’s best to take a routine blood pressure reading annually beginning at the age of three.
In some circumstances, a child’s blood pressure should be taken more often. This can happen if a child has a risk factor for hypertension, such as a family history of high blood pressure. Other signs a child needs their blood pressure measured more often include being significantly underweight or overweight and having heart, lung, or circulatory problems.
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