Healthy Living: Getting the vaccine? Wait before reaching for pain relievers

“The idea is that if you don’t actually need to take anything, you shouldn’t." Here's why.

Posted: Mar 3, 2021 5:48 PM
Updated: May 3, 2021 11:02 AM

EUGENE, Ore. – Even though the side effects that come along with the coronavirus vaccine can be unpleasant – they are normal.

KEZI 9 News talked to experts to find out how you can try to avoid the worst of the symptoms.

“By now you’ve probably heard of someone who got the coronavirus vaccine and got some pretty noticeable side effects,” said Oregon Medical Group's Dr. Harold Perez, who practices family medicine. “But if you’re hoping to avoid possible pain and discomfort, experts say to wait until after the shot to take over-the-counter pain relievers.”

Sore arms, fever, fatigue and chills: the vaccine can come with side effects of varying severity.

“Some people say they feel very sore after the first vaccine, but it varies,” Perez said.

For some, the second shot can cause even more discomfort.

“What I’ve seen in my experience is that most patients do experience more symptoms with their second vaccine,” Perez said.

It may be tempting to preemptively take a pain reliever ahead of time to avoid that sore arm, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends waiting.

“The idea is that if you don’t actually need to take anything, you shouldn’t,” Perez said.

Experts say over-the-counter medicines might impact how your immune system reacts to the vaccine.

However, after you’ve gotten the shot, the CDC says treating side effects with ibuprofen, aspirin, antihistamines or acetaminophen is all right. But remember – that pain and discomfort can actually be a good sign.

“This is how you respond to a vaccine,” Perez said. “This is how your body is telling you that the vaccine is working and doing what it is supposed to. That’s actually a positive thing, and we don’t always need to treat those symptoms that are normal.”

If you’re looking for other methods to ward off side effects, the CDC says to keep it simple. For a sore arm, give it some exercise or wash the area of the shot with a wet washcloth. If you’re feeling feverish, drink plenty of fluids and dress lightly.

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