Ask the Pharmacist: How to treat symptoms post vaccination

Suzy Cohen
Gloved hand holding vaccine vial with a syringe and a needle

Millions of people around the world are opting for the COVID-19 vaccine, and pharmacists are the front line health professionals that see people coming in and asking for help. So, today, I’d like to offer tips and remedies regarding this.

I’d like to make one thing clear; this article is not a statement about whether you should receive the vaccine, or not. That is entirely up to you. Speak to your practitioner about what is right for you. My article is intended to help those of you who do opt to get it, and then suffer with post-vaccination discomfort.

Here’s what you can do to help yourself. 

Make sure they inject it properly

You’ve probably seen people on TV getting vaccinated, but if the skin is pinched as the needle is injected, it could cause the vaccine to get placed into the fatty tissue right underneath your skin, instead of the muscle where it’s supposed to be. In other words, they don’t need to be pinching your deltoid muscle.

Pain at the site of injection

This is a very common occurrence. If you have ever received a shot in your arm, you already know how the surrounding muscles feels sore for up to a week. The reaction may be immediate, or slightly delayed. If it is pinkish-red, you can apply some hydrocortisone to the area to help reduce that. Some experts suggest an antihistamine if the redness and heat is too much, in which case, something like Benadryl or Claritin. 

You may take over-the-counter (OTC) analgesics such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) if you need to. There are some subtle differences between those two medications that you should be aware of. Please be sure to read the precautions for each medication to know which is right for you. These medications are useful to relieve minor aches and pains. Currently, it is advised not to take them in advance of the shot, as doing so may impact your immune system response to the vaccine.

Swelling at the site of injection

The fastest remedy for this is to put a cold pack on your arm for about 5 - 10 minutes. You can repeat the application every few hours. Another trick is to try a warm compress (i.e. soak a towel in very warm water and wring it out). You could even alternate with an ice pack and then a warm compress. OTC analgesics like those listed above could be handy for this problem as well.

Pain and aches or fever

In most cases, mild discomfort in the body, or fever is quite normal. You may take OTC analgesics such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce the aches/pain and fever. If it’s mild, give yourself a sponge bath with lukewarm water and Epsom salts. Get into bed with lighter pajamas and drink plenty of cool water.

Sensitivity to the first shot

If you have a severe reaction to the first shot, then you need to contact your physician for more instructions, and naturally cancel your second shot if scheduled.

More:Ask the Pharmacist: How to make an herbal immunity tea

Also:Ask the Pharmacist: Save your skin with probiotics

And:Ask the Pharmacist: How BPC 157 helps tendons and your tummy

Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit