Can I take painkillers before or after a Covid vaccine?

Experts say allowing your body to experience post-vaccine side effects increases efficacy

Kate Ng
Wednesday 05 May 2021 14:58
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UK Covid-19 vaccinations: Latest figures

The coronavirus vaccine rollout is continuing across the UK, as a total of 15,630,007 people are now fully vaccinated agains the disease.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Wednesday that England remains on course to complete the road map out of lockdown, with 83 to 84 per cent of adults saying they will be vaccinated.

But although more than 34 million people in the UK have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, the rest of the adult population - another 21 million people - have yet to receive a jab.

Those preparing to receive a jab may be wondering if taking painkillers before or after their vaccination would help alleviate any side effects, which may include fever, chills, tiredness and headaches, as well as swelling on the arm that receives the jab.

However, experts have warned against taking any pain relief medication before or after a Covid jab.

Why shouldn’t I take painkillers?

According to experts, you should avoid taking a painkiller before and after getting a Covid vaccine to give your immune system the best chance of learning how to fight the coronavirus.

Pain relievers may also interfere with the vaccine’s efficacy, as they do with flu jabs. Studies have shown that children who took anti-inflammatory and fever-reducing medication after getting a flu vaccine had fewer antibodies than those who experienced a post-vaccine fever.

Developing mild symptoms such as a fever is an indication that your immune system is “revving up” and learning how to fight off the virus, said Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building up immunity against the coronavirus.

Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said that allowing your body to deal with the virus without painkillers helps it to build “immunological memory”.

“Don’t use [painkillers] beforehand,” he told reporters in February, adding that people should also  “try very hard not to” take painkillers after getting a jab.

How can I alleviate discomfort from the side effects without taking painkillers?

Experts recommend plenty of rest and ensuring you stay hydrated post-vaccine. If you are experiencing soreness at the site of the jab, use a cold compress to bring the swelling down or exercise your arm to reduce pain.

Drinking plenty of fluids and dressing in light clothes can also help reduce discomfort from a fever.

If you must take a painkiller, the World Health Organisation recommends paracetamol for treating post-vaccine pain or fever.

According to the NHS, most side effects of the Covid vaccine are mild and should not last longer than a week.

However, if you experience a high temperature that lasts longer than two days, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell, you may have become infected with Covid-19 and should stay at home and take a test.

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