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What are palpitations?

Palpitations are when you notice your heart beating. For a few seconds or minutes, you may feel like your heart is:

  • Pounding – beating fast and hard against your chest
  • Fluttering – beating fast
  • Beating irregularly – beating at a different rhythm and sometimes missing a beat -these are known as ectopic beats

Palpitations can be scary, but they are not harmful or a sign of a serious health problem in most cases.

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What causes palpitations?

Many people get palpitations, they are not just a symptom of having or recovering from COVID.

You might notice palpitations when:

  • You are worried
  • You have a fever, or are ill
  • You are pregnant
  • You have been exercising

Some medication can give you palpitations. You can also get palpitations from drinking too many drinks with caffeine such as:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Energy drinks

A small number of people with palpitations do so because they have an abnormal heart rhythm, which can make them feel like their heart is beating in a different rhythm. This is called ‘cardiac arrhythmia’, and it is not usually harmful as long as is it being treated.

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When should I see my doctor?

You will not usually need to see a GP if:

  • Your palpitations do not happen often
  • Your palpitations do not last a long time

You should see a GP if you have had palpitations before or if they:

  • Last a long time
  • Do not get any better
  • Get worse
  • You have a history of heart problems
  • You feel troubled (or anxious)

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When should I seek urgent medical attention?

Call 999 if you have any of these problems at the same time as palpitations:

  • Pains in your chest
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Fainting

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