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Chest and Respiratory Problems

Heart Palpitations

Prevention - Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

Heart palpitations are an uncomfortable sensation that your heart is beating rapidly and/or irregularly. Heart palpitations can feel like:


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  • Stop smoking.

  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol or limit your intake.

  • If you take prescription or non- prescription medications regularly, ask your pharmacist if the drugs you take can cause heart palpitations.

  • If anxiety or stress may be causing heart palpitations, see Anxiety on See Anxiety and try the relaxation exercises on See Relaxation Skills.

    Encephalitis and Meningitis

    Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain that may occur after a viral infection, such as chickenpox, flu, measles, mumps, mononucleosis, or cold sores. Mosquitoes in some parts of North America can spread encephalitis.

    Meningitis is a viral or bacterial illness that causes inflammation in the tissues that surround the brain and spinal cord. It may follow an infection, such as an ear or sinus infection, or a viral illness.

    Encephalitis and meningitis are serious illnesses that have similar symptoms. Call a health professional immediately if the following symptoms develop, especially after a viral illness or after you are bitten by mosquitoes:

    • Severe headache with stiff neck, fever, nausea, and vomiting

    • Drowsiness, lack of energy, confusion, memory problems, or unusual behaviour

  • Make physical activity a daily habit. (If you frequently have heart palpitations, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.)

  • See your doctor for regular checkups if you have risk factors for heart attack (See Lifestyle and other factors that may increase your risk of a heart attack include:). Early detection and management of heart problems is the best way to prevent serious illness.

Home Treatment

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  • Take deep breaths and try to relax. This may slow a racing heart.

  • If you start to feel lightheaded (like you might pass out), lie down to avoid injuries that might result if you pass out and fall down.

  • Keep a record of the date and time; your activities when the irregular heartbeat happened; how long the irregular beats lasted; how many "skipped" beats there were; and any other symptoms.

  • Follow the Prevention guidelines.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • Call 911 or other emergency services immediately if symptoms of a heart attack are present (See Chest Pain).

  • If heart palpitations occur with any of the following symptoms:

  • Weakness or fatigue.

  • Lightheadedness (feeling like you might pass out).

  • Confusion.

  • Feeling as if something bad is going to happen.If it seems as if your heart beats irregularly all the time.

  • If heart palpitations are new or different than before and are not relieved by Home Treatment.

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