There has been a lot of information circulating on the COVID vaccine and vestibular disorders, a lot of it being negative. Naturally after getting through 24/7 dizziness from chronic vestibular migraine, I’m terrified to go back to that same place. While I know I have all the tools to help, as well as a good physician to call, I think most of us have the same feelings when it comes to the unknown - whether it’s flying for the first time or trying a new medication.
I wanted to share my experience with getting the COVID shot and how I managed any increase in symptoms along the way. Please know this post is meant to be informative and not an endorsement either way. Unfortunately this illness has hit our family particularly hard and we’ve lost loved ones very quickly in a really terrible way. It was important to me to receive the shot to better protect my family. If you think I’m going to grow a 3rd leg, please just keep it to yourself. I’d rather not know. Perhaps it will make me a better runner though!
Let me start by saying, we've been extremely careful because of my high risk pregnancy so I haven't been exposed to COVID. It does seem to be that those who have been exposed have a more intense reaction to the shot. You can read more about that when Kayla shares her experience below.
Consulting with My Physicians
It’s always important to speak with your doctor before trying any new medication, supplement, dietary change, etc. For this injection, I consulted with my neurologist, OB, and pediatrician. Dr. Beh had informed me that many of his patients did see an increase in symptoms post-shot, and to have my acute medications and treatments ready.
Managing the First Injection
I had major nerves not knowing what to expect. My mom, who is a registered nurse, went with me just in case I had any reaction. Following the injection (like within 10 minutes), I had mild dizziness which could have been anxiety, could be having to go to the bathroom after waiting 2 hours and hydrating like crazy. The rest of that day I had some fatigue and a little ear pain that I took Tylenol for. No other symptoms.
- I made sure I stuck closely to the migraine diet and avoided my big triggers.
- The weather was cloudy and rainy that day, most likely contributing to my ear pain.
- Hydration and rest were my top priorities.
The Second Injection
It’s fairly well known if you have success with one injection, the next tends to hit a little harder. Again, I had mild dizziness right after (could be anxiety, could be having to go to the bathroom after waiting 3 hours and hydrating like crazy). That afternoon, a couple of hours after my shot, I planned an IV therapy with vitamins, this is sometimes called a Meyer’s Cocktail.
I'll write more on this later, but you don't need a prescription for this and you can use your HSA/FSA. You can also get these at home and add Zofran, Toradol, magnesium, etc. I do recommend clearing any of this with your physician. While it is expensive running between $100-200, it is much less than a visit to the ER.
That day I also used Gammacore, a nVNS device, to pre-treat any vestibular migraine symptoms. This is a new device I’m trialing postpartum and it’s too early to say if it’s helping, but I notice it’s been effective for head pain. I also took the lowest dose of my acute medication before bed.
The next day I felt a little achey and had that weird skin feeling when you get really sick, but no ear pain and only mild dizziness. I made myself a cherry smoothie (hello magnesium!) and added extra spinach and ¼ cup of oats to make it more filling. After a good night sleep, the symptoms were gone the next day.
Tips for the COVID Shot and Vestibular Migraine
- Hydrate as much as you can, whether it's the old fashioned way or with iv therapy (approved by your physician).
- Make sure you keep your threshold low - watch your migraine diet, stay up to date with supplements, medications, anything that works for you.
- Dr. Beh recommends keeping acute treatments handy.
- Stick with easy recipes the next day, either smoothies with lots of vitamins or prep some freezer meals to defrost and microwave, like pot roast.
Obviously everyone is different, but I think too often the people who have positive experiences never speak up so it just seems like doom and gloom when you read reactions online. I also believe some of the preventative measures I took helped lessen my reaction a bit more than normal. I’m several weeks out now and feeling great!
Getting the Vaccine After COVID
Now that you’ve heard my side, I thought I’d share my friend Kayla’s from True Kaylaisms. Kayla gives a different perspective as someone who had COVID and then got her vaccine. What’s interesting is she had a far greater reaction to her first vaccine than I did with mine. It seems to be fairly common from other anecdotal stories that it is because she’s already built up some immunity to the virus.
You know what is ironic? Waiting all year to get a vaccine so you can get your life back, and then getting COVID a week before you qualify for the shot. I had COVID back in December, and for the most part, would describe my experience as mild in comparison to others’ stories. Basically, my symptoms were comparable to bad allergies: runny nose, sore throat, a cough and congestion mixed with EXTREME fatigue and dizziness. You can read more about my COVID experience on my blog.
I’m not going to lie; I was a bit hesitant to get the vaccine after my 90 days were up. I was nervous that my body (that already overreacts) would react strongly to the vaccine since I still have antibodies from the virus. However, I know that it’s for the greater good, and I am ready to get out of the house and be social again which is why I signed up for the Pfizer vaccination.
My First Injection
So, I have heard that if you had COVID previously, you’re more likely to have a stronger reaction to the first shot. That was definitely my experience. 12 hours after having the shot, I literally felt like I had COVID again. All the EXACT same symptoms showed back up. However, they were gone within 24 hours. A much better deal this time. I did my best to stay hydrated and got a lot of rest. Tylenol also helped.
My Second Injection
I went into the second shot that morning with lingering vestibular migraine symptoms. It’s spring in Texas and so storms tend to flare things up for me. Immediately after the second dose, I had to sit in the observation for about 30 minutes. I was really dizzy and needed to be sure I could drive. Within 12 hours, I was still doing okay, and I thought I was in the clear. Then the next day hit. On my second day, I had body aches and chills, but by day 3, I was fine.
All in all, I can’t tell you one way or another if the vaccine affected my VM. Unfortunately, we’re in peak storm season, so I’m practically dizzy every day. What I can say is, I better have some superhero type of immunity to this virus now with the vaccine and my antibodies. For my second dose, I had already used my acute medication to help me out with the vestibular migraine attack I already had so it’s difficult to say if it helped. - Kayla McCain
We hope that by sharing our experiences, you'll be better prepared and perhaps less nervous if you decide to get the COVID-19 shot with vestibular migraine.