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Allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines are rare

A healthcare worker wearing a mask and face shield swabs a woman's arm.

For most people, the worst part about getting a COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be a sore arm. But some people who got a vaccine have had severe allergic reactions.

To understand what's going on, it's important to keep the big picture in mind: So far millions of people have received their first COVID-19 shot. Of these, only a small number have had a severe reaction, known as anaphylaxis.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis can include:

  • A swollen throat.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Upset stomach.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Passing out.
  • Itching and swelling.

Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening condition. That's why providers may ask you to wait around for 15 to 30 minutes after you get your shot. You'll be monitored during this time to make sure you don't have any reactions. If you do, vaccine clinics have medicines on hand to quickly treat an allergic reaction.

Anyone who has symptoms like these after leaving the vaccine clinic should call 911.

Who may be at risk?

Experts are still investigating. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising healthcare providers to take special precautions with people who have had a reaction to any other vaccines or injected medicines in the past.

If you fall into that group, it does not necessarily mean you should not get a COVID-19 vaccine. You should talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits in your case. Your doctor can help you decide what's best.

CDC says you may also be at risk for a reaction if you:

  • Have had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine. In that case, you should avoid that specific vaccine.
  • Have had a severe allergic reaction to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. In that case, talk to your doctor for advice.

What about other allergies?

Many people have common allergies to things like food, medicines, latex, dust or pollens.

But this does not put them at risk for a COVID-19 vaccine reaction, the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reports.

Remember: Severe vaccine reactions are rare. Getting your COVID-19 shots will help protect you from the disease. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about whether a vaccine is right for you.

Follow up on your smartphone

After you get your vaccine, you can sign up for CDC's v-safe program. It will send personalized text messages to your smartphone to check in on any side effects you may have had. And it will remind you when it's time to get your second dose, if needed.

You can sign up at vsafe.cdc.gov.

Reviewed 2/16/2021

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