Can I take painkillers before a COVID-19 vaccine?


AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/AP) — It has been a recent question that has been raised: Can I take painkillers before or after a COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccines work by tricking the body into thinking it has a virus and mounting a defense against it. That may cause arm soreness, fever, headache, muscle aches, or other temporary symptoms of inflammation that can be part of that reaction.

“These symptoms mean your immune system is revving up and the vaccine is working,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a recent news briefing.

The AP reported certain painkillers that target inflammation, including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and other brands) might curb the immune response. A study on mice in the Journal of Virology found these drugs might lower production of antibodies — helpful substances that block the virus from infecting cells.

“I would not advise taking a ‘painkiller’ before getting the vaccination,” said BSA’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Michael Lamanteer. “The vaccination causes very minimal, insignificant discomfort at the time of administration, and furthermore, if there’s going to be some discomfort in the subsequent 24 to 48 hours … it’s reasonable to take something like acetaminophen to treat those symptoms.

Jonathan Watanabe, a pharmacist at the University of California, said people should not take a painkiller as a preventive measure before getting a vaccine unless a doctor has told them to. The same goes for after a shot: “If you don’t need to take it, you shouldn’t,” Watanabe said.

“The one I worried about were the anti-inflammatories, the NSAIDs, which are designed to blunt inflammation,” said Dr. Brian Weis, the chief medical officer at Northwest. “So you could argue that maybe that’s gonna alter the response of the body.” He said acetaminophen does not do that and will treat fever and chills.

“From what I understand is that that type of concern was raised in the past on some studies in children who were getting vaccines that maybe if those children took Advil or the equivalent of Advil, which is called a non-steroidal which is an aspirin light product, that maybe that would blunt the vaccine effect,” said Dr. Scott Milton with the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. “So what I’m saying is that there’s no real study about this vaccine because it’s all-new, right? We don’t have that data. But on previous vaccines, there is some data that suggests that might be the case.”

Dr. Milton said the rule with any medication is if you do not take it unless you need it. He said if you did need something for after the vacation, he would suggest acetaminophen.

The CDC offers other tips, such as holding a cool, wet washcloth over the area of the shot and exercising that arm. For fever, drink lots of fluids and dress lightly.

Call your doctor if redness or tenderness in the arm increases after a day or if side effects don’t go away after a few days, the CDC says.

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