Allergic Reactions after COVID-19 Vaccination
What to do if you are having a severe allergic reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine
Severe allergic reactions to any type of vaccines are rare but can happen. If you get a COVID-19 vaccine and you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction after leaving the vaccination provider site, seek immediate medical care by calling 1-03.
A severe allergic reaction can cause:
- difficulty breathing or wheezing,
- a drop in blood pressure,
- swelling of the tongue or throat, or
- a generalized rash or hives, which may include mucus membranes.
If You Had a Severe Allergic Reaction to a COVID-19 Vaccine
An allergic reaction is considered severe when a person needs to be treated with epinephrine or if the person must go to the hospital. Experts refer to severe allergic reactions as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can occur after any kind of vaccination. If it happens, healthcare providers can effectively and immediately treat the reaction.
If you had a severe allergic reaction after receiving a particular type of COVID-19 vaccine (either mRNA or viral vector), you should not get another dose of that type of vaccine.
If You Have Had an Immediate Allergic Reaction to Other Vaccines or Injectables
An immediate allergic reaction happens within 4 hours after getting vaccinated and could include symptoms such as hives, swelling, and wheezing (respiratory distress).
If you have had an immediate allergic reaction to any vaccine other than a COVID-19 vaccine or any injectable therapy, you may still be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Your doctor may refer you to an allergy and immunology specialist for additional care or advice.
If You Had a Non-severe Allergic Reaction to a COVID-19 Vaccine
If you had an immediate allergic reaction (a reaction that started within 4 hours of getting vaccinated) to a COVID-19 vaccine, but the reaction was not considered severe by a medical professional, you likely can receive another dose of the same vaccine under certain conditions. For instance, as a precautionary measure your doctor may suggest you stay at the medical facility for more than the necessary 15 minutes. Your doctor may also refer you to an allergy and immunology specialist for additional care or advice or suggest receiving another type of COVID-19 vaccine for the next dose.
If You Had a Rash on the Arm where You Got a COVID-19 Shot
If you had a red, itchy, swollen, or painful rash where you got a COVID-19 shot, you should still get another shot at the recommended interval. This applies to second, additional, or booster shots. These rashes can start a few days to more than a week after your shot and are sometimes quite large. These rashes are also known as “COVID arm.” Tell your vaccination provider that you experienced a rash or “COVID arm” after your shot. Your vaccination provider may recommend that you get your next COVID-19 vaccine in the opposite arm if possible.
If the rash is itchy, you can take an antihistamine. If it is painful, you can take a pain medication like paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Safeguards Are in Place
1. Everyone who gets a COVID-19 vaccine should be monitored on site for at least 15 minutes after vaccination. You should be monitored for 30 minutes if:
- You have had a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis due to any cause.
- You have had any type of immediate (within 4 hours) allergic reaction to a non-COVID-19 vaccine or injectable therapy․
- You had a severe allergic reaction to one type of COVID-19 vaccine (for example, an mRNA vaccine) and are now receiving another type of COVID-19 vaccine (for example, a viral vector). This vaccination should only be done in a health clinic, medical facility, or doctor’s office.
- You had an immediate (within 4 hours) allergic reaction that was not severe from a previous dose of that type of COVID-19 vaccine. This vaccination should only be done in a health clinic, medical facility, or doctor’s office.
2. Vaccination providers should have appropriate personnel, medications, and equipment—such as epinephrine, antihistamines, blood pressure monitor, and timing devices to check your pulse—at all COVID-19 vaccination provider sites.
3. If you experience a severe allergic reaction after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, vaccination providers can provide care rapidly and call for emergency medical services. You should continue to be monitored in a medical facility for at least several hours.
This article is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government