FACT FINDERS: Is it safe to take over-the-counter pain relievers before or after COVID-19 vaccine?

Published: Mar. 10, 2021 at 6:55 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Dr. Cadey Harrel is a family physician in Tucson who participated in the Moderna trial, receiving both shots.

“After the first, I did have some redness at the site about a week later that started all of the sudden. It almost seemed out of the blue. Then I had a low-grade fever and a headache for about a day or two,” Harrel said.

Harrel said the second dose was tough.

“About three hours later, my arm was so sore I could hardly lift it. I started having a high fever up to 103º, headaches, nausea, and just felt really fatigued,” Harrel said.

Harrel said initially, she didn’t take any over-the-counter pain relievers because she was worried they would dampen her immune response.

“One of my friends who is an immunologist who was actually on the trial said, ‘Take it, take it. We know if it is not going to be enough to dampen a strong immune response like that, so there is no need to torture yourself,’” Harrel said.

That is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says too, but when it comes to taking medication before the vaccine, that’s a different story.

“We worry about taking those pre-emptively having a potential role in even dampening the immune response we get from an immunization,” Harrel said.

The CDC does not recommend you take over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen or aspirin to try to prevent side effects, because it’s not known if those could impact how well the vaccine will work.

Harrel says taking a pain reliever before receiving the vaccine might not even help.

“There is no good evidence whatsoever that taking any sort of anti-inflammatories, or that taking antipyretics like Tylenol or acetaminophen prior to injections, has any sort of impact on preventing fevers or any of those adverse effects that people sometimes experience that are actually a normal healthy immune response to an immunization,” Harrel said.

If you do experience pain and discomfort after receiving the shot, the CDC recommends applying a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area. Use or exercise your arm and drink plenty of fluids, if you have a fever.

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