Can You Take Advil Before or After Having the COVID Vaccine?

Ibuprofen—sold in the United States under the names Motrin and Advil—is an anti-inflammatory drug that is commonly used as a pain reliever. But is the medication safe to take before or after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it does not recommend taking ibuprofen and other over-the-counter pain relievers—such as aspirin and acetaminophen—beforehand to prevent side effects from the shot.

This is because it is not yet known how these medications may affect the functioning of the vaccine.

The side effects that are sometimes produced by these vaccines are the result of the body's immune response being activated. In essence, the shots teach the immune system how to identify and neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus in preparation for the pathogen potentially entering the body.

Taking a painkiller before vaccination could blunt this immune response, hampering the body's ability to build defenses against the virus—although there is a lack of scientific data on this issue so there is still much we don't know.

Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told HealthDay News there was a chance that taking a painkiller before vaccination could result in a "decrease in antibody response."

Poland said the CDC had made its recommendation "out of an abundance of caution."

Dr. Abinash Virk, infectious disease specialist and COVID vaccine administration program coordinator at the Mayo Clinic, told Newsweek that studies had found slightly lower immune responses to vaccines in infants who had received acetaminophen—a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication similar to ibuprofen.

"This has not been conclusively shown in adults but, based on the studies in children, we recommend avoiding these medications before vaccination," she said. According to Virk, people should avoid the drugs for 48 hours before getting the shot, if possible.

There are exceptions, however. The CDC says anyone who takes these medications regularly for underlying conditions should continue doing so.

It is not recommended to avoid, discontinue or delay medications for underlying medical conditions around the time of COVID-19 vaccination," the CDC guidance says.

"However, your healthcare provider should talk to you about what is currently known and not known about the effectiveness of getting a COVID-19 vaccine when taking medications that suppress the immune system. If you have questions about medications that you are taking, talk to your doctor or your vaccination provider."

The CDC says you can take painkillers after vaccination to relieve any discomfort you may experience, although the agency recommends talking to your doctor first.

"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," the CDC says.

Despite the CDC guidelines, Virk says the Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding painkillers for 48 hours after vaccination, if possible.

"If [they are in] severe pain—it is OK to take after vaccination. No major harm. Again if possible, best if they can avoid but, if needed, no major concern," she said.

COVID-19 vaccine
A medical worker draws a dose of COVID-19 vaccine from its bottle during a vaccination session at Washington National Cathedral on March 16. Alex Wong/Getty Images