Signs & Symptoms

What is the difference between a sign and a symptom?

Infant with mother in Drs. office

Signs and symptoms are not the same things. A sign is a clinical feature of a disease or condition that the doctor looks for. It is something that can be seen or measured. This includes things like redness or heart murmur, things that the patient may not necessarily feel.

A symptom is something the patient feels or complains about, like fatigue or pain. Symptoms cannot be directly observed. Both signs and symptoms are assessed in order to make a diagnosis.

What influences how common or severe a symptom is?

Symptoms and signs vary according to the type and severity of the heart condition, the child’s activity level, and whether or not the child has been treated for the heart condition.

What are possible symptoms of a heart condition?

  • rapid heartbeat
  • difficulty breathing (shortness of breath)
  • cyanosis ("blue spells")
  • difficulty with feeding (prolonged or ineffective)
  • failure to thrive (poor growth)
  • decreased exercise tolerance
  • palpitations
  • fainting/dizziness
  • chest pain

What are possible signs of a heart condition?

  • abnormal breathing
  • abnormal heart rate (arrhythmia)
  • low blood pressure
  • cyanosis
  • heart murmur
  • edema (swelling)

Fraser Golding, MD, FRCPC