It's best to avoid some common pain relievers after the COVID shot, because they can dilute the power of the vaccine, according to research at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) dampen the production of necessary antibodies that protect against illnesses such as COVID, scientists said.
Over-the-counter pain and fever-reducers that are classified as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are the ones to avoid. They act in part by blocking the cyclooxygenase-2 (cox-2) enzyme. But blocking the cox-2 enzyme is not a good idea in the context of vaccination, because the cox-2 enzyme is necessary for high production of B-lymphocytes. When people take medications like Advil for discomfort at the injection site they're also inadvertently reducing the ability of B cells to make antibodies that protect against COVID and other viruses.
"Unless your health care provider tells you otherwise, it's best not to take pain relievers one or two days before the coronavirus vaccine and for a week afterward," said David J. Topham, Ph.D., a professor in the Center for Vaccine Biology and Immunology at URMC. Abstaining from NSAIDs for 14 days afterward would be even better, he added.
Taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) is probably okay after the vaccine, Topham said, because it targets pain and fever in a different way.
Topham bases his opinion on peer-reviewed, published research he co-authored on this topic, including the first description of how NSAIDs and other pain relievers impact cox-2 and blunt the body's production of anti-viral antibodies.
The CDC also cautions against using pain relievers prior to vaccination for coronavirus — but states that individuals should talk to their doctors about using them afterward.
According to the CDC website: "If you have pain or discomfort, talk to your doctor about taking over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, antihistamines, or acetaminophen, for any pain and discomfort you may experience after getting vaccinated. You can take these medications to relieve post-vaccination side effects if you have no other medical reasons that prevent you from taking these medications normally. It is not recommended you take these medicines before vaccination for the purpose of trying to prevent side effects, because it is not known how these medications may impact how well the vaccine works."
Individuals who take aspirin for cardiovascular or vascular disease should talk to their doctors before stopping even low-dose aspirin. And people who take medications such as Celebrex for arthritis or other chronic pain also should consult their physicians.