If you're gearing up for a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot, don't fret. It’s one of the best ways to protect yourself from severe disease, hospitalization, and death from the virus. Most people experience mild side effects following vaccination and usually recover in a few days.
Over-the-counter medication can help with these symptoms, but Sankar Swaminathan, MD, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at University of Utah Health, cautions taking pain relievers before getting vaccinated.
“It is not recommended to take a pain reliever before getting a COVID-19 vaccine, as it may theoretically reduce your immune response to the vaccines,” Swaminathan says. “How much this has a significant effect on efficacy is unknown.”
Is one pain reliever safer than another?
It is not clear whether one type of pain reliever or antipyretic (fever reducer) is less likely to interfere with the vaccine efficacy. Neither should be taken before the vaccine unless it is part of the patient’s regular regimen. This should be discussed with the patient’s physician, says Swaminathan.
Is it safe to take a pain reliever after your vaccine if you are experiencing symptoms?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Antipyretic or analgesic medications (e.g., acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can be taken for the treatment of post-vaccination local or systemic symptoms, if medically appropriate.”
What is your best advice for combating vaccine side effects some people experience?
Swaminathan says to reduce pain and discomfort where you got the shot:
- Apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area.
- Use or exercise your arm.
- To reduce discomfort from fever, drink plenty of water and dress lightly.
If people are concerned prior to being vaccinated, is there anything they can do to reduce the possibility of symptoms?
“Not really anything specific—stay well hydrated, dress comfortably, and plan on not working if side effects develop,” Swaminathan says.
Why are some people experiencing symptoms from the vaccine while others are not?
“There are natural variations in human responses to vaccines, just like some people have very different responses to infections”.