Getting the COVID-19 vaccine? Avoid taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen beforehand, say experts who have expressed concerns that these over-the-counter pain relievers could possibly dull the vaccine’s effectiveness.
The two coronavirus vaccines that have seen emergency approval in the U.S. — one developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and the other by Moderna — may cause side effects after they’re administered, such as pain and swelling at the injection site and/or fever, chills and headache, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In an attempt to prevent some of these unwanted reactions, some receiving the jab may choose to take over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen).
But doing so could impact the vaccines’ effectiveness, warn experts.
“I don’t recommend to people that they take anything before the vaccine to prevent any side effects. We are still learning about the potential impact of ibuprofen or acetaminophen — we need more data,” Dr. John Whyte, the chief medical officer of the health care website WebMD, told Fox News in an email.
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“There is no real value in taking these medicines before vaccination; these medications are for when you have symptoms not to prevent symptoms,” he added.
Having uncomfortable symptoms after a vaccine, such as feeling feverish or achy, are signs one’s immune system is working to build immunity against a virus. Yet taking pain relievers before receiving the jab could hinder the body’s ability to create antibodies against the virus, as these over-the-counter medications may slow the immune response, experts have theorized, largely pointing to a study out of Duke University that found children who took pain relievers prior to receiving childhood vaccines had lower antibody levels afterward compared to those who did not.
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“Our recommendations say that you shouldn’t take a pain killer prior to vaccination to sort of protecting yourself from the pain you might expect. But I’ll just remind people — first of all when you feel that pain, that means the vaccine is working, so that can be a nice signal for some people,” said Dr. John Brooks, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC and the chief medical officer for the agency’s COVID-19 response, during a recent media briefing with The Infectious Diseases Society of America.
“There are some theoretical reasons why in a small number of people that [pain] might be of concern, [which is why] we only recommend that you take a [pain killer] after vaccination if it’s needed,” he added. “You shouldn’t take medication, in general, unless there’s an indication [that it’s needed] — I would limit what I expose myself [unless] I really need it.”
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On its website, the CDC advises placing a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the injection site should one experience pain, also recommending to “use or exercise your arm” to reduce any discomfort.
The federal agency also advises to “drink plenty of fluids” and “dress lightly” in the case of a fever.
Those who experience an increase of redness or tenderness at the injection site 24 hours after receiving the vaccine or have any “worrying” side effects that don’t subside after a few days should speak to their doctor, the CDC says.