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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 have been one of the most common symptoms for those who were admitted to hospital with COVID. They 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 it is 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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