Shortness of breath isn’t common after the COVID-19 vaccine. However, it may happen due to rare adverse effects, like myocarditis, pericarditis, or anaphylaxis. Many people with these adverse effects recover with prompt treatment.
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is important for preventing serious illness and death from the coronavirus. As with any vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccine can have side effects. Many of these are mild and go away in a few days.
In rare cases, more serious adverse effects that cause shortness of breath can occur. Keep reading to learn more about the causes of shortness of breath after COVID-19 vaccination and how they’re diagnosed and treated.
In rare instances, a few things may cause shortness of breath after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. These include:
Myocarditis and pericarditis
- after getting an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, like the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine
- within a week of getting a vaccine dose
- after getting the second dose in the primary vaccine series
- 70.7 cases per 1 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in males ages 12 to 15
- 105.9 cases per 1 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in males ages 16 to 17
- 52.4 cases and 56.3 cases per 1 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccine, respectively, in males ages 18 to 24
Anaphylaxis is a severe, life threatening allergic reaction. It may cause symptoms like:
- breathing problems, which can include:
- shortness of breath
- swelling of the tongue or throat
- dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
- clammy skin
- rapid heart rate
- nausea or vomiting
- abdominal pain
- anxiety or a feeling of impending doom
It’s possible for anaphylaxis to occur after any type of COVID-19 vaccine. However, it’s still very rare. The CDC estimates it occurs at a rate of
Other causes of shortness of breath after the COVID-19 vaccine
There are also some other rarer causes of shortness of breath that have been associated with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines:
- Interstitial lung disease (ILD): ILD refers to conditions that lead to scarring of the lungs. Reports of ILD after the COVID-19 vaccine are
limitedto several case reports.
- Pneumonitis: Pneumonitis is a general term for lung inflammation. A
coupleof case reportshave described pneumonitis after the COVID-19 vaccine.
Case reports are detailed descriptions of disease in a single person. As such, compared with the number of vaccine doses given worldwide, these adverse effects are exceedingly rare.
What to do if you have serious side effects after the COVID-19 vaccine
Seek medical care if you develop symptoms of myocarditis or pericarditis in the days after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. These conditions can become serious if they’re not treated.
Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. If you have symptoms of anaphylaxis in the minutes or hours after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, call 911 or local emergency services.
Myocarditis and pericarditis
A doctor can diagnose and treat myocarditis or pericarditis by:
- performing a physical exam and taking your medical history
- ordering blood tests, like tests for:
- doing an electrocardiogram (EKG)
- using imaging, such as a:
A cardiologist typically treats these conditions. Treatment may involve medications geared toward reducing inflammation, such as:
You’ll also need to get plenty of rest as you recover.
Anaphylaxis typically comes on suddenly
A 2023 study also found that the outlook for people with myocarditis after COVID-19 vaccination was better when compared with people with conventional myocarditis or COVID-19-associated myocarditis.
People who have had myocarditis or pericarditis after getting sick with COVID-19
Anaphylaxis typically resolves after treatment. If you experienced anaphylaxis after a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, you
In rare cases, shortness of breath can happen after the COVID-19 vaccine. This can be caused by rare adverse effects like myocarditis, pericarditis, or anaphylaxis.
With treatment, many people with shortness of breath after the COVID-19 vaccine recover without lingering problems.
Myocarditis and pericarditis can become serious, while anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. Always seek prompt medical care if you have concerning symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, or rash after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.