What is hypertension?

Hypertension is blood pressure that is too high.

In some children, hypertension can be a serious condition. It can increase the risk of getting other diseases, especially if the hypertension continues into their adult years.

Hypertension in children is rare. If your child has hypertension, your doctor will try to find out what is causing it and if it is affecting other parts of his or her body, such as the kidneys or heart.

About blood pressure

Blood pressure is the force, or pressure, caused mainly by the heart pumping, that makes the blood flow round the body. It is important that blood pressure is in a healthy range – not too high and not too low.

The kidneys normally control blood pressure to help make sure it is at a healthy level. They do this by regulating how much salt and water is in the blood. If the kidneys are not working properly, they may not be able to control blood pressure well.

Symptoms and causes of hypertension

Hypertension can be mild, moderate or severe. Often, there are no early symptoms or signs in hypertension. Some children with hypertension have the following:

  • headaches that keep coming back or that do not go away
  • vomiting (being sick), especially with a headache
  • blurred (fuzzy) vision
  • odd feelings/numbness
  • poor coordination, or movement disorders – they may seem clumsy
  • temporary weakness or paralysis (difficulty moving) of one side of the face
  • seizures (which may also be called fits or convulsions).

If your child has any of the above, take them to your doctor to check their blood pressure as soon as possible.

Hypertension in children is rare. It is much more common in adults, especially older adults.

In children it is often caused by an underlying heath condition.

Hypertension: tests and diagnosis

Your child’s doctor or nurse will measure your child’s blood pressure a few times before diagnosing (identifying) hypertension. Your doctor or nurse will know the healthy range of blood pressure for your child.

Hypertension: treatment

If your child continues to have hypertension after careful assessment and monitoring, he or she will need to control their blood pressure. 

Eating a healthy diet with no added salt and getting plenty of exercise can help to reduce blood pressure. Some children need to take medicines.

About the future

Hypertension can be a serious condition if it is not well controlled. Hypertension increases the risk of other diseases, especially if it continues into adulthood. These include stroke, heart attack, heart failure and kidney disease.

If your child continues to have hypertension, his or her blood pressure will need to be carefully controlled. If your child has an underlying condition, this may need treatment.

Follow up

Your child may need to go back to your doctor or to the hospital to have more blood pressure measurements, or for other tests or treatment. Your doctor will let you know what to expect.

Contact your doctor straight away if your child is vomiting (being sick) and cannot take their medicine for more than 24 hours (1 day).

More information

  • Blood pressure

    Blood pressure (BP) is the force, or pressure, that makes the blood flow round the body. It is very important that your child’s blood pressure is in a healthy range. If it is too high or too low, your doctor will try to find out what is causing this.

  • Measuring blood pressure

    Information about how children's blood pressure is measured in clinics, surgeries or hospitals, and when you might be asked to measure blood pressure at home.

  • Meet a Paediatric Nurse

    Denise and Rachel are both paediatric nurses at the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle and their roles centre around the practical and emotional elements of kidney disease treatments.