Diuretics for Congenital Heart Defects

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Diuretics for Congenital Heart Defects


Generic NameBrand Name

How It Works

Diuretics cause the kidneys to remove water and salt (sodium) from the body. This reduces the amount of fluid in the body and lowers blood pressure. Diuretics increase urination. So they are commonly called "water pills."

Why It Is Used

In children who have congenital heart defects, diuretics often are given to treat symptoms of heart failure. Diuretics allow the heart to function more efficiently, which helps improve breathing difficulty and swelling.

How Well It Works

Diuretics reduce the amount of extra water in the body. So they relieve symptoms such as shortness of breath.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine your child takes. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with the medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after your child takes the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother your child and you wonder if he or she should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower the dose or change the medicine. Do not suddenly have your child quit taking your medicine unless your doctor says to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if your child has:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if your child has symptoms of changes in potassium levels:

  • Confusion.
  • Dry mouth or increased thirst.
  • An irregular heartbeat.
  • Muscle cramps or pain
  • Numbness or tingling in hands, feet, or lips.

Call your doctor if your child has:

  • Hives.

Other side effects of this medicine include:

  • Loss of appetite.
  • Stomach problems such as aches or nausea.
  • Sensitive skin to sunlight.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Your child may feel more tired or need to urinate more often when he or she starts taking this medicine. These effects typically occur less after a child has taken the medicine for a while. If the increase in urine interferes with your child's sleep or daily activities, ask your doctor to help you plan a schedule for taking the medicine.

Ask your doctor if your child needs to take a potassium supplement or if you need to watch the amount of potassium in your child's food. If your child takes a certain type of diuretic (loop diuretic or thiazide diuretic), your doctor may suggest that your child get extra potassium, because these medicines lower your potassium levels. But if your child takes a potassium-sparing diuretic, your child does not need extra potassium.

Taking medicine

Know how to give your child's medicine safely. For help, see the topic Congenital Heart Defects: Caring for Your Child.

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. If your child takes medicine as your doctor suggests, it will improve your child's health and may prevent future problems. If your child doesn't take the medicines properly, his or her health (and perhaps life) may be at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.


Your child may need regular blood tests while taking diuretics to monitor the levels of chemicals such as potassium in the blood.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical ReviewerLarry A. Latson, MD - Pediatric Cardiology
Last RevisedMay 14, 2012

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