Avoid Painkillers Before and After Covid Vaccine, Experts Say

Mild fever or other symptoms means the vaccine is working. Don’t mess with that.

Robert Roy Britt
Elemental
Published in
3 min readFeb 8, 2021

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Photo: James Yarema/Unsplash

Experts say that people should avoid painkillers before and after getting a Covid-19 vaccine, to give it the best chance of doing what it’s supposed to do: stimulate your immune system. Mild symptoms like fever, chills, headache, and tiredness indicate the vaccine is tricking your cells into learning how to fend off the coronavirus.

“These symptoms mean your immune system is revving up and the vaccine is working,” says Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Don’t use them beforehand. Try very hard not to.”

“This builds immunological memory,” says Michael Mina, MD, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Painkillers are known to interfere with effectiveness of flu shots. The possibility has not been studied with Covid vaccines, but Mina and other experts say it’s possible, so they advise skipping painkillers if you can bear it. If you’re already routinely taking them for a health condition, you should not stop without talking to your doctor.

“Don’t use them beforehand,” Mina told a group of reporters last week. And afterward, “try very hard not to.”

Know your drugs

If you must take something for aches or fever after a Covid shot, all three major classes of over-the-counter painkillers can be effective, Mina and other experts say. Each has different potential side effects, both physical and mental.

Ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) target the site of pain and can also reduce inflammation. Known to cause stomach irritation. Brands include Advil and Motrin. Naproxen (including Aleve) is also an NSAID.

Aspirin is also an NSAID and known to cause stomach irritation. It should not be taken daily without a doctor’s advice, and it is not recommended for anyone 17 or younger.

Acetaminophen (including Tylenol) targets pain signals in the nervous system, instead of the source…

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Robert Roy Britt
Elemental

Editor of Aha! and Wise & Well on Medium + the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com. Author of Make Sleep Your Superpower: amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB