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Should I Take Tylenol Before the COVID-19 Vaccine? What to Do (& Not Do) for Dose 2

A little preparation can go a long way.

Blog vaccine
IMG 5844 By Lily Moe May 05, 2021

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As vaccinations for COVID-19 continue to increase in availability, more and more individuals are understanding how their bodies react to the injection.

A lot of reports of bad side effects (like body aches and fever) after the second dose has left people wondering if they should take Tylenol or another drug before getting COVID-19 vaccine number two. Or, what else they can do to minimize a bad response from a sore arm to full-blown sickness.

Chances are high you’ve seen a relative or friend share their second dose war story on Facebook, recanting a sudden flu a few hours after they received their shot. But according to the CDC, this reaction after your second dose is normal. In fact, they say it’s likely that your second shot will elicit a stronger immune response than your first (which may only give you a sore arm for a day or two).

The main side effects people are reporting after dose two? Fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea.

While you can’t be sure how your body will react to the COVID-19 vaccine — you may not even experience side effects. But in case you do, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared with a treatment plan and some helpful additions to your medicine cabinet.

Can I Take Tylenol Before Shot #2?

You shouldn’t take a painkiller, like Tylenol, or any drugs containing aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen before your vaccine in hopes of preventing side effects. Mayo Clinic states this may actually dampen your immune system’s response to the vaccine, and the CDC adds that it’s unknown if these medications could affect how the vaccine works since it has not been studied.

You can, however, take medication post-vaccination if and when you exhibit symptoms that the medication could help alleviate — like fever, body aches, etc.

If Your Arm is Sore

Don’t give it too much time to grow stiff. Make sure you move it frequently, massaging the injection spot to increase blood flow. If it feels swollen and continues to hurt, press a cold pack (wrapped in a towel) on the injection area for 20 minutes.

Your arm will probably be sore after both doses of your vaccine — but don’t worry, it’s natural for your arm to notice a shot!

If You Have a Headache

You can take an ibuprofen or Advil to relieve tension if it becomes unbearable. You should also prioritize rest and drink plenty of fluids, specifically water and something to replenish your electrolytes (like Gatorade or coconut water).

If You’re Nauseous

Take it easy and eat and drink in small amounts. Avoid alcohol, sugar, and greasy foods. Keep your pantry stocked with bananas, crackers, eggs, and applesauce (as well as plenty of water, ginger ale, and Gatorade).

If You Have a Fever or Chills

Drink fluids! Staying hydrated is crucial when your body is reacting negatively to a vaccine. Taking a hot shower or bath may also help you feel better! If your fever or chills continue, take Tylenol or another over-the-counter fever reducer.

If You’re Feeling Fatigued

This is one of the most commonly experienced side effects and it can be treated with some good ol’ R&R. Clean your sheets before you go in for your second dose, an extra comfy bed may just be the BFF you needed.

If You Feel Like You Have the Flu

Follow the above directions for any symptoms your body has. This shouldn’t last more than a couple of days — queue up your favorite movies, stay hydrated, and celebrate the fact that you’re fully vaccinated!

When to Call Your Doctor

While side effects for COVID-19 vaccines are normal, it’s always helpful to be hyper-aware of how your body is functioning. This is why you’re asked to stay at the injection site for 15 minutes after your shot, to make sure you don’t have a negative reaction.

If your side effects are still present (with the same intensity) after a few days of getting your shot, it may be wise to call your doctor. If you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction, call 911 immediately.

When Can I Workout Again?

We get it — you’re in a state of “health is wealth” after getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and jumping on a treadmill post-shot sounds like a natural course of action. This is fine, experts don’t find anything wrong with exercising after your vaccine as long as you’re feeling up to it. But if your body isn’t feeling great, listen to it and maybe replace the run with some relaxing stretches. If your arm is really sore, swap out upper body day for legs or abs instead.

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Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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About the author

Lily Moe

Senior Editor

Lily is a Brooklyn-based wellness enthusiast who never says no to trying a new fitness class. As a previous fitness coach and current health editor, she loves New York's health scene and can often be found in a hot yoga studio, attending a meditation seminar, or going for a long run in Central Park. Lily is originally from Oregon and moved to Brooklyn in 2017—one day when she makes it big, she'll spend her winters on the West Coast and her summers in New York's best borough.

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