How to manage COVID-19 vaccine side effects (and when to seek care)

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Angela Patterson, DNP, FNP-BC, Chief Nurse Practitioner Officer at MinuteClinic/ Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.com

As with any vaccine, people who receive the COVID-19 vaccine may experience some side effects, which are normal signs that their immune system is working and is building up protection from the disease. Most common vaccine-related side effects are mild to moderate in severity, occur within the first three days of vaccination and resolve within 1-3 days of onset. With the COVID-19 vaccine, in particular, symptoms have been observed to be more frequent and severe following the second dose, in the case of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and among younger vs. older people.

Common side effects related to the COVID-19 vaccine include pain, redness and/or swelling at the injection site, fever, headache, muscle pain, fatigue, nausea, and chills.

Although most side effects are mild, many patients may wonder what they can do to relieve post-COVID-19 vaccine symptoms. Here are some easy ways to manage common side effects:

To reduce pain and discomfort where you got the shot:

  • Apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area.
  • Use or exercise your arm.

To reduce discomfort from fever:

  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Dress lightly.
  • Take medications to reduce fever such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

When to seek medical care:

  • If the vaccine site’s redness/tenderness gets worse after 24 hours.
  • If you’re experiencing symptoms that last longer or are more severe than expected, typically more than 1-3 days
  • If you’re concerned your symptoms might actually be related to a new onset of COVID-19 infection.

People who are experiencing vaccine-related side effects that are concerning them or lasting longer than anticipated can talk to their health care provider. One option is to visit a MinuteClinic in-person or via E-clinic for a Post-Vaccine Side Effects visit. A MinuteClinic provider will review the patient’s recent vaccine history, discuss the patient’s symptoms and provide guidance on how to manage and reduce discomfort due to vaccination-related side effects.

The provider can also identify if a patient’s symptoms require additional care. This includes providing information on when a patient should seek urgent or emergent care if their symptoms worsen or certain additional symptoms occur.

Patients can schedule an appointment in advance in most locations, walk-in at any MinuteClinic location or select a telehealth option to connect virtually with a local MinuteClinic provider.

Source: CDC https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/expect/after.html

About Angela Patterson, DNP, FNP-BC, Chief Nurse Practitioner Officer at MinuteClinic

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