Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Heart Palpitations

Heart Palpitations
beginning of content

Heart palpitations

What are heart palpitations?

Most of the time you won’t notice your heartbeat, but if you suddenly become aware of it, this may concern you or come as a surprise. The feeling of being aware of your heart beating is described as a palpitation.

Palpitations can range from simply being aware of your heart’s activity to the sensation of it beating faster and harder than usual. It can sometimes feel like your heart is missing beats.

Although changes to your heartbeat are not always serious, they can be worrying.

See your doctor if the palpitations last more than a couple of seconds, don't improve, get worse, or you have heart problems.

Dial triple zero (000) if you have heart palpitations along with these symptoms:

  • severe shortness of breath
  • chest pain or tightness
  • dizziness or light-heartedness
  • fainting or blackouts.

Causes of palpitations

There are many causes of palpitations and it’s common to experience them when you feel:

This is due to a rise in adrenaline levels, which can cause your heart to beat faster.

Palpitations and irregular heartbeat can also be caused by:

  • exercise
  • strenuous activity
  • drinks or foods containing caffeine (such as coffee, cola, tea and chocolate)
  • alcohol alcohol and nicotine nicotine
  • taking certain medicines (such as ephedrine and theophylline)
  • taking recreational drugs (such as cocaine and amphetamines)
  • hormone changes
  • heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias)
  • heart conditions such as heart failure and congenital heart disease
  • low blood sugar
  • anaemia
  • overactive thyroid
  • dehydration
  • dizziness and low blood pressure when you stand up too quickly.

Palpitation treatments

If you have heart palpitations, or irregular or rapid heartbeats, there are a number of things you can do:

  • try to sit down and relax or find somewhere quiet to rest
  • keep yourself calm and in a comfortable position
  • try not to panic as this can make your symptoms worse
  • you may find it helpful to loosen any restrictive (tight) clothing that can affect your breathing, such as your collar button and tie
  • avoid any stimulants that could make your palpitations worse – this includes caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and recreational drugs.

If you are concerned about your heart palpitations please consult your doctor.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your heart palpitations, check your symptoms with healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).



Last reviewed: September 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 566 results

Palpitations - myDr.com.au

Palpitations are sensations of excessively strong and/or irregular heartbeats. Find out more about the causes and treatment for palpitations.

Read more on myDr website

Heart Palpitations | myVMC

A person is said to be having heart palpitations when they have a sudden awareness of their heart beating in their chest.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms)

Arrhythmia is when you have an abnormal heart rhythm and heart palpitations are an awareness of your heartbeat.

Read more on WA Health website

Heartbeat - myDr.com.au

The heartbeat is usually a regular rhythm, but when disturbed it becomes irregular and is felt as palpitations. Find out about extra beats and arrhythmias and when to visit the doctor.

Read more on myDr website

Antabuse | myVMC

Antabuse is a medicine used to treat alcohol dependence. It contains disulfiram and causes unpleasant symptoms if alcohol is consumed.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Epaq Inhaler | myVMC

Epaq inhaler is used to relieve bronchospams in asthma and other respiratory disorders, and to prevent exercise induced asthma. It contains Salbutamol.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Actifed Dry Cough & Nasal Congestion Liquid Filled Capsules | myVMC

Actifed Dry Capsules contain dextromethorphan hydrobromide and pseudoephedrine to relieve upper respiratory infection with non productive cough.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Actifed Chesty Cough & Nasal Congestion Liquid Filled Capsules | myVMC

Actifed Liquid Filled Capsules contain guaifenesin and pseudoephedrine for symptomatic relief of upper respiratory tract infection with productive cough.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Salbutamol (Terry White Chemists) | myVMC

Salbutamol is a muscle relaxing medicine that dilates the airways to improve breathing. It is used to treat asthma and chronic obstructive airways disease.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Chem mart Salbutamol | myVMC

Salbutamol is a treatment for asthma and chronic obstructive airway disease. It relaxes the smooth muscles of the airways to prevent bronchospasm.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback