Can You Take Tylenol, Ibuprofen After Having the COVID Vaccine?

As COVID-19 vaccinations are rolled out across the country, you might be wondering if it is OK to take pain relievers before or after receiving a shot.

After all, these vaccines can produce side effects that cause pain and discomfort, although they tend to be minor and should go away in a few days.

The most common issues people will experience are pain and swelling at the injection site, while receivers may also experience fever, tiredness, chills or a headache.

For most people, health experts recommend not to premedicate with over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) and ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin, Advil) before receiving a vaccine.

This is because there is a chance these medications may blunt your immune response to the vaccine, reducing the body's ability to build up defenses against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

However, people who regularly take one of these medications for another medical condition should continue to do so as needed. Stopping the medications in these instances could cause unintended problems.

After receiving a vaccination, anyone who has symptoms that make them feel uncomfortable can take these medications, as long as the correct doses are adhered to, experts say.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends talking to your doctor to see if you should take these medications if you experience pain or discomfort after receiving a shot.

The side effects caused by these vaccines are the result of the body's immune response being activated—which is the intended aim of the shot. Essentially, the vaccines teach the body how to identify and neutralize the virus should exposure occur.

But there is no research looking at how drugs like acetaminophen and ibuprofen may interfere with the functioning of COVID-19 vaccines specifically, hence the expert recommendations not to premedicate.

"We do not recommend premedication with ibuprofen or Tylenol before COVID-19 vaccines due to the lack of data on how it impacts the vaccine-induced antibody responses," Dr. Simone Wildes, an infectious disease specialist at South Shore Medical Center and a member of COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group in Massachusetts, told ABC News.

Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system that fight off pathogens. COVID-19 vaccines induce the body to generate antibodies that specifically target the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

There is some evidence from previous research on vaccines for other diseases that premedicating with pain relievers before a shot may dull the body's immune response.

"There are data in the vaccine literature, long predating COVID-19 and almost all [done] in children, that premedication with [fever-reducing drugs] like acetaminophen or ibuprofen decrease the antibody response to the first dose of vaccine," Dr. David J. Cennimo, an infectious disease physician and assistant professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, told Healthline.

Despite findings like these, it is not clear what the real-world impacts of premedicating with pain relievers before taking a vaccine are on the functioning of the shot.

Tylenol tablets
Tylenol tablets, which contain acetaminophen. Experts say people should avoid premedicating with pain relievers before receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Scott Olson/Getty Images