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Should Parents Worry About Pericarditis As A Vaccine Side Effect?

Medically reviewed by Via Roderos, MD, MBA · Internal or General Medicine

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Mar 30, 2022

    Should Parents Worry About Pericarditis As A Vaccine Side Effect?

    You may have heard about pericarditis and myocarditis as possible side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine for children. But should those be the reason for you to prevent your child from getting the immunization shot?

    The Philippine Society of Pediatric Cardiology, in cooperation with the Philippine Heart Association Council of Congenital Heart Disease and Council of Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease, released a statement regarding the possible cardiac reactions children experience after getting the COVID vaccine. The collaboration then discussed and indicated the rare reports involving myocarditis and pericarditis.

    What is Pericarditis?

    Pericarditis refers to the irritation and inflammation of the thin, sac-like tissue that surrounds the heart (pericardium). A common symptom of this condition is the occurrence of sharp chest pain. The pericardium’s irritated layers rub against each other, thus, causing chest pain.

    The condition is normally acute that develops suddenly and can last for several months. However, the attacks may last for years if not treated accordingly. It causes the membrane surrounding the heart to become red and swollen, similar to how the skin around a cut becomes inflamed. Pericardial effusion occurs when there is extra fluid in the space gaps between the layers. 

    Symptoms vary depending on the type of pericarditis.

    Types of Pericarditis

    Pericarditis is classified into several types based on the pattern of symptoms and the duration of symptoms.

    • Acute pericarditis. This type appears suddenly and lasts no more than three weeks. Future episodes are plausible. It may be difficult to distinguish between acute pericarditis and pain caused by a heart attack.
    • Recurrent pericarditis. As the name suggests, this type develops four to six weeks after an acute pericarditis episode, with no symptoms in between.
    • Incessant pericarditis. This one seems to last for about four to six weeks, but no longer than three months, with ongoing symptoms. 
    • Chronic constrictive pericarditis. It typically develops gradually and lasts for more than three months.

    What are the Symptoms of Pericarditis?

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following symptoms are likely to take place for both myocarditis and pericarditis:

    • Chest pain
    • Shortness of breath
    • Fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart

    Some children may not be able to characterize or even explain the pain they are feeling in their chests. They may often have non-specific symptoms like a low-grade fever, irritability, fatigue, loss of appetite, and irregular heartbeat.

    The doctor will inquire about your child’s symptoms, as well as the medical history, before proceeding with the physical examination. He or she may hear a rub, an abnormal heart sound, that is due to pericardium irritation. After which, the attending physician may perform a series of tests to provide proper diagnosis:

  • Blood tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Echocardiography (echo)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) 
  • Computerized tomography (CT scan)
  • The Connection to COVID-19 Vaccines

    There are several reports highlighting the very rare cases of myocarditis and pericarditis following the administration of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. It is most common after second doses of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. 

    While both can be due to a variety of factors, current evidence suggests a possible link between these symptoms and vaccines. However, more information is required to fully understand this potential relationship. COVID-19 infection is more likely to cause myocarditis and pericarditis than COVID-19 vaccination.

    The study’s data revealed that symptoms of post-vaccine myocarditis and pericarditis are generally mild, and frequently resolve on their own or with minimal treatment.  Only about 20% of the patients in the study were admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).  From there, only two required medications to support the heart or help with blood pressure. Overall, hospitalization was brief with minimal medication and patients recovering quickly. There were no reported deaths.

    Key Takeaways

    • CDC encourages kids ages 5 and above to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The potential risks and complications of COVID-19 far outweigh the adverse reactions of the vaccine. 
    • Immediately contact your doctor should your child feel any of the abovementioned symptoms. Early detection and treatment can prevent further complications.

    Learn more about Coronavirus here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Via Roderos, MD, MBA

    Internal or General Medicine

    Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Mar 30, 2022

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