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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Taking Medication for Side Effects from the COVID-19 Vaccine

February 2021 | Brian Chicoine, MD - Medical Director, Adult Down Syndrome Center

As with all vaccines, there is the potential to experience side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. This is true for people with and without Down syndrome. These side effects may include pain or swelling on the arm where you got the vaccine, fever, chills, tiredness, and/or headache. These side effects are a positive sign that the immune system is responding appropriately to the vaccine. They should go away in a few days. 

Should I take medication in advance to manage potential side effects?

A frequent question is whether we should take medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or others, before going for the COVID-19 vaccine to prevent side effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is not recommended. As the article at this link explains, there are two main reasons. 

  1. Taking these medications may mask the symptoms of an allergic reaction to the vaccine. 

Dr. Robert Citronberg, the Executive Medical Director of Infectious Disease and Prevention for Advocate Aurora Health, notes, "Taking these medications before getting your immunization may mask the symptoms of an allergic reaction. And if you're having an allergic reaction, we want to know about it, because it might require medical intervention or signal that you're not a good candidate to receive a second dose of the vaccine."

  1. It is not known if these medications may impact how well the vaccine works. 

Currently, there is no scientific evidence that taking these medications will reduce the immune system's response to the vaccine. However, it requires further study. 

 

Is there a different recommendation for people with Down syndrome?

No. However, some people with Down syndrome may have difficulty reporting side effects they experience from the COVID-19 vaccine. We recommend monitoring the individual for the first few days after getting the vaccine. Consider checking for a fever, examining the arm for redness, and watching for lethargy or poor intake of food or liquid. Encourage the person to drink plenty of fluids. We are aware of several people with Down syndrome who did not drink well after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. They benefited from being reminded and encouraged to drink more fluids to prevent dehydration and dizziness. If the pain or discomfort after getting the vaccine is significant, the person's healthcare provider may suggest that the person take medications for the side effects. 

 

For other frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccines, please see this page on the CDC website. 

To see all our resources on COVID-19, please visit this link.

Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.

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