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VERIFY: You can take a pain reliever after your COVID-19 vaccine, but hold off beforehand

Health experts agree it's OK to take a pain reliever after your COVID-19 vaccine to ease side effects, but doing so beforehand can weaken the immune response.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Before you pop a pain reliever to prevent COVID-19 vaccine side effects, take a dose of helpful information with you to your appointment.


It's a big week for COVID-19 vaccinations in North Carolina, as eligibility expands to all of Group 4 Wednesday -- the same day the federally-supported clinic will start administering second-dose Pfizer shots. By now, you know to expect possible temporary side effects after your vaccine, like low-grade fever, aches and soreness at the injection site -- indications the virus is prompting the immune response, as intended.

So, can you take an over-the-counter pain reliever, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, before and/or after your COVID-19 vaccine to ease discomfort? 

RELATED: After the shot: here's what side effects to expect with the COVID-19 vaccine



Infectious diseases physician Chris Ohl, MD, said this is one of the most commonly-asked questions about the vaccine. The CDC recently sought to answer it in the updated guidance on possible side effects. The agency states it does not recommend you take over-the-counter medicines before vaccination for the purpose of trying to prevent side effects. You can take them afterward, unless your doctor or medical history suggest otherwise.

"In fact, I think using Ibuprofen or Tylenol helps a lot in those first 24 hours for reducing not only injection site pain and soreness but also particularly the fever and some of the aches and pain that can come," Ohl explained.

RELATED: Pick an arm, either arm: It's fine to switch sides for second COVID-19 vaccine dose

A Yale University study, conducted by University of Connecticut researchers and published in the Journal of Virology, studied this on mice. It found painkillers weakened their ability to produce antibodies. Well, the purpose of a vaccine is to give you antibodies, which block the virus from infecting your cells. That is the reasoning behind the CDC's guidance to try to avoid pain relievers before a vaccine, as they could dampen the immune response. 

But, Ohl affirms, it's more than OK to take a pain reliever afterward.

"...I think the benefits of taking it far outweigh any potential for reduced effectiveness."


Talk to your doctor about starting or stopping these medications, especially if you regularly take them for a health reason. The rule of thumb is to hold off on taking something like Motrin or Tylenol before your COVID-19 vaccine, but taking one afterward for post-vaccine symptom relief should be fine.

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