On Jan. 29, MSNBC anchor Yasmin Vossoughian, who had been off the air for a few weeks because of a recent health scare, told viewers she developed myocarditis after having a cold. Myocarditis is a serious but rare condition that occurs when the heart muscle becomes inflamed.
After Vossoughian shared the cause of her diagnosis, people online expressed skepticism that a cold could cause myocarditis. Like this user on Instagram who commented, “Ever know anyone who had heart problems during or after a common cold?”
VERIFY viewer Ian also asked our team on Facebook if the common cold can cause myocarditis.
Can you develop myocarditis after having a cold?
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
- Johns Hopkins Medicine
- Mayo Clinic
- American Heart Association
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Payal Kohli, M.D., assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Colorado in the Department of Cardiology and founder of Cherry Creek Heart
Yes, you can develop myocarditis after having a cold.
WHAT WE FOUND
A person can develop myocarditis after having a cold. The serious but rare condition is typically caused by an infection in the body, like the common cold, the flu, or COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
“When we see a patient who comes in with myocarditis, one of the first questions I will ask is, ‘have you had a cold recently?’ Because we know many different types of the virus have been linked to post-myocarditis,” cardiologist Payal Kohli, M.D., said.
These viruses may infect the heart muscle tissue, causing the body’s immune system to react, which can lead to heart inflammation, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says on its website.
“When you have a cold, it activates the immune system, the immune system gets confused, attacks your heart cells instead, and causes inflammation of the heart,” Kohli told VERIFY.
In addition to viral infections, bacteria, fungi, parasites, or autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, can cause myocarditis. Certain medications, drugs, and other environmental or toxic exposures can also lead to the condition.
In the early stage of myocarditis, Johns Hopkins Medicine says you may have few or no symptoms at all. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, some people may experience mild symptoms. The most common myocarditis symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Swelling of the legs, ankles and feet
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias)
- Shortness of breath, at rest or during activity
- Light-headedness or feeling like you might faint
- Flu-like symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pain, fever or sore throat
“Sometimes, myocarditis symptoms are like a heart attack. If you are having unexplained chest pain and shortness of breath, seek emergency medical help,” the Mayo Clinic says on its website.
While it has been determined that the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna do carry a rare risk of myocarditis, Kohli explained that these cases typically develop within a few weeks after vaccination, not later down the line.
A November 2022 study by the American Heart Association looked at medical records of people hospitalized for myocarditis within 21 days of receiving the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Researchers found that of the 7.3 million people who received the first, second or third dose, only 41 people were hospitalized for myocarditis.
Although there is no specific way to prevent myocarditis, the Mayo Clinic recommends taking the following steps to ward off infections:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Wash your hands regularly.
- Avoid risky behaviors, such as using illegal drugs.
- Stay up to date on the recommended vaccines, including those that protect against COVID-19, influenza and rubella — diseases that can cause myocarditis.
WCNC and the Associated Press contributed reporting for this story.