Booked in for your COVID-19 vaccine but worried you might get sick? Yes, there are a few possible side effects to consider, but there are over-the-counter medications and effective home remedies that can help alleviate any uncomfortable post-jab symptoms. Here, we outline the Covid vaccine side effects and how to treat them.
With NSW’s lockdown restrictions set firmly in place for at least the next four weeks, the demand for the COVID-19 vaccine has never been more prevalent. Over the next few months, the Australian government plan to administer thousands of jabs to the nation in a bid to protect us all against the widespread virus.
But as the rollout of the vaccine ramps up, so do questions surrounding the vaccine’s safety and the side effects. To put your minds at rest, here’s everything you need to know about getting the Covid vaccine, and how to treat any unwanted side effects.
How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?
Vaccines work by training a person’s immune system to recognise and clear out germs (bacteria and viruses) that can potentially cause serious illness. They make your immune system stronger so it’s able to recognise and fight against specific germs, and as a result, stop you from getting sick.
Vaccines, very simply, are a safe way of producing an immune response in the body without causing illness. They contain either killed or weakened versions of the virus that causes the disease, or a small part of it, such as a protein or nucleic acid.
When you get a vaccine, your immune system recognises these germs as foreign, and responds by creating memory cells and antibodies that protect you against future infection.
The COVID-19 vaccine works in exactly the same way. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has spikes of protein on each viral particle. These spike proteins allow the virus to attach to cells and cause disease. Both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines help the body to recognise and detect these spike proteins as foreign, then fight the coronavirus that has them.
Having the vaccine will therefore protect you because you’ve already been exposed to a weakened version of the virus. This means it will lower your chances of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 if you encounter the coronavirus.
Both vaccines have been proven effective at preventing disease, hospitalisation and death from COVID-19.
Do I still need the vaccine if I’ve already had COVID-19?
If you’ve already had COVID-19 and recovered, you may have some natural immunity to contracting the disease again. However because this virus is new, it’s not clear how long natural immunity might last.
Reinfection is definitely a possibility. There have been some cases overseas where a patient has contracted COVID-19 a second time. Doctors are still recommending everyone to get the vaccine even if you’ve had the virus already.
Research is still being done to find out how long natural immunity lasts, as it may vary from person to person. Scientists are monitoring this closely and in time we’ll know more about how long both natural and vaccine mediated immunity lasts.
Are there any side effects from getting the Covid vaccine?
Like any vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccine can cause side effects, but most are mild and short-term. Experiencing side effects from the vaccine is actually a good thing — it’s a sign that your body is building protection against the virus.
Having said that, experiencing little to no side effects doesn’t indicate that the vaccine was less effective for you, or that your immune response was inadequate. A person’s immune system is unique to them. Immune systems respond in different ways depending on the person, so some people may experience side effects, where others will not.
- A painful or tender arm for a couple of days, where the vaccine was injected
- Joint and/or muscle pain
- Fever and/or chills
- Swollen lymph nodes
These side effects may affect your ability to carry out daily activities, but they should go away within a few days. They don’t usually last more than a few days to a week.
Is there anything I can do to prevent these side effects?
Because everyone will have a unique immune response to the vaccine, there’s no real way of knowing how the vaccine might affect you, or if you can take any medication beforehand to lessen the side effects.
In fact, doctors recommend avoiding taking medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, or antihistamines, prior to getting the jab. They’ve advised it’s best to wait and see if any side effects arise, then treat these individually, as opposed to guessing and taking several over-the-counter products ahead of time.
Instead, it’s been advised to drink plenty of fluids before and after getting your jab — dehydration can exacerbate the side effects, so staying hydrated might shorten the length of them or affect how intense they are.
Also, try to avoid excessive amounts of alcohol before and after having the vaccine. Alcohol won’t decrease your immune response, but it could run the risk of making you feel worse.
But what if I start to feel ill after the vaccine — is there anything I can take to treat the side effects?
Should you experience any side effects, talk to your doctor about taking over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, or antihistamines. These can help relieve any pain and discomfort you may experience after getting vaccinated, providing you have no other medical reasons that prevent you from taking these medications.
Here are some OTC and effective home remedies that could help….
For any muscle aches and pains
- Take over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, or antihistamines, to alleviate muscle tension, aches and pains, and to reduce inflammation and swelling.
- Keep hydrated — drink liquids often for 1-2 days after getting the vaccine.
- Pour MgBody Magnesium Foot And Bath Soak Relaxation into a bath and have a long, relaxing soak. Magnesium flakes help ease muscle pain by replenishing your body with essential magnesium through the skin—a method known as transdermal absorption.
- Apply Voltaren Emulgel No Mess to the affected area. Voltaren Emulgel contains the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), diclofenac. Diclofenac works to relieve pain and reduce inflammation (swelling). The Emulgel technology helps the gel to penetrate deeply into the skin to enhance the delivery of diclofenac to the site of pain.
- Take a daily dose of BioCeuticals Ultra Muscleze Powder. Ultra Muscleze is a great-tasting, high-dose magnesium powder featuring UltraMag, a specialised mineral delivery system that enhances absorption and intestinal tolerance of magnesium. Ultra Muscleze also contains the amino acids carnitine, glutamine and taurine, with B vitamins and other supportive nutrients.
For any pain, redness or swelling in your arm
- Use an ice pack or cool, damp cloth or compress like Futuro 3M Cold Hot Compress to help reduce redness, soreness and/or swelling at the place where the shot was given. The reusable Futuro Cold Hot Compress helps reduce swelling, inflammation, fever and muscle spasms. To reduce swelling use cold, and keep stored in the freezer. Place pack in wet cloth or bandage. Apply every 2 hours for up to 20 minutes. A cool bath can also be soothing for the pain.
- Try to avoid wearing constricting layers, this can make the pain in your arm worse.
- Although it might hurt, moving your arm will actually help to reduce any soreness or stiffness. Move around and use your arm as much as possible. This may seem counterintuitive, and perhaps feel a little uncomfortable, but it helps prevent further stiffness by loosening up sore muscles.
- Take OTC pain killers such as Nurofen Quickzorb 24 Caplets these tablets have an advanced formula for fast absorption which means they’ll get to work much quicker on reliving pain.
For any headaches
- Keep hydrated. Dehydration is a common headache trigger, so topping up with water can help to reduce pain.
- Place one Kool 'N' Soothe Migraine Cooling Gel sheet on the forehead or the back of the neck to relive pressure pain from a headache.
- Migrastick Roll-On contains soothing lavender and peppermint essential oils, that work as natural pain relievers. Apply to the temples (well away from the eyes), back of the neck and forehead for headache relief.
- Take OTC painkillers such as Panadol Pain Relief to relieve pain.
For any symptoms of nausea
Seek medical treatment from your GP or speak to a pharmacist. Our pharmacists are on hand via chatbot on our website, or available for phone consultation on (02) 9358 1822.
For any fever symptoms
- Anyone with chills and a low-grade fever should drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
- Wear light, loose clothing and dress in layers to prevent overheating.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Avoid taking cold baths or showers. Skin reacts to the cold by constricting its blood vessels, which will trap body heat. The cold may also cause shivering, which can generate more heat.
- Take paracetamol or ibuprofen, such Nurofen Zavance Caplets to help bring your temperature down.
If you're unsure about any products, our pharmacists are on hand via chatbot on our website, or available for phone consultation on (02) 9358 1822.
Between 1 and 3 in 10 people get a slight fever after having the vaccination. Keep in mind that a high fever could mean you have another infection or have COVID-19 that you caught before or around the time of the vaccination, before the vaccine had time to kick in. If you feel unwell or are worried, it’s a good idea to speak to a healthcare professional.
You should seek urgent medical attention if your symptoms persist or if you experience any of the following symptoms following your vaccination:
- you have a reaction that you consider severe or unexpected
- you are concerned about your condition after vaccination
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- swelling in your leg
- persistent abdominal (belly) pain
- neurological symptoms, including severe and persistent headaches or blurred vision
- tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of injection
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