Don’t take pain meds before your COVID shot?? Questions…

Don’t take Tylenol??  Don’t take Advil??  When?  Why?

Taking some pills such as Tylenol or Advil may have a blunting effect on a person’s immune system if they are taken around the same time as a person receives a COVID-19 vaccination, experts say. (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Earlier today, I posted a flyer showing the recommendation of NorthBay Healthcare: BEFORE your 2nd shot: don’t take prescription or over-the-counter pain meds.

A Facebook reader wrote, “This would have more validity and guidance if it stated a time period (one hour? 24 hours? one week?) to not take any pain meds prior to the second vaccine.”

Good question!

Then my reader pointed us to an excellent article published just today on it might be best to avoid painkillers as a precaution before your COVID-19 vaccine.


Turns out, there’s no definitive answer for a time period, and the scientific backing is suggestive but not certain.  Nonetheless, the World Health Organization, our Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Canadian counterpart, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) all recommend to not take acetaminophen or ibuprofen immediately BEFORE receiving your vaccination.

Mahyar Etminan, an associate professor of ophthalmology, pharmacology and medicine at the University of British Columbia, looked at data on taking medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) before or close to the time of vaccination.

“Given that a lot of people would probably resort to using these drugs once they’re vaccinated, if they still have aches and pains, I thought to put the data into perspective,” said Etminan, who has a background in pharmacy, pharmacology and epidemiology.

The jury is out on what happens to a person’s immune system after a COVID-19 vaccine if the person has taken those medications. But based on research on other vaccines like for the flu, there may be a blunting effect on immune response from the pills.


Here’s a brief understanding of the science behind the recommendation.

Dr. Sharon Evans, a professor of oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, N.Y., works on training the immune system to attack cancer. She became interested in fever because it is such a common response across animals that walk or fly, even cold-blooded ones.

Before the pandemic, Evans and her colleagues wrote a review on how fever generally helps to reduce the severity and length of illness.

Evans called fever “incredible” for its ability to boost all the components needed for a protective immune response.

Fever “literally mobilizes the cells, it moves them in the body into the right place at the right time,” Evans said.

There’s also good evidence that inflammation, even without fever, can boost immune responses, she said.

The Recommendation…

Don’t use pain meds before your shot if possible, but if you HAVE used them, go ahead and get vaccinated.

“NACI recommends that prophylactic oral analgesics or antipyretics (e.g., acetaminophen or ibuprofen) should not be routinely used before or at the time of vaccination, but their use is not a contraindication to vaccination,” according to the Government of Canada’s website. “Oral analgesics or antipyretics may be considered for the management of adverse events (e.g., pain or fever, respectively), if they occur after vaccination.”

And my best reading of the above is that when your arm hurts or if you get a fever AFTER your shot, you may consider taking pain meds, but probably best if you ride it out.

For a lengthier discussion, go to the CBC article.