Don’t mix vaccine with painkillers
It’s best to avoid taking painkillers before or after a COVID-19 vaccine, unless you routinely take them for a medical condition. Although the evidence is limited, some painkillers might interfere with the very thing the vaccine is trying to do: generate a strong immune system response.
Vaccines work by tricking the body into thinking it has a virus and mounting a defense against it. That may cause arm soreness, fever, headache, muscle aches or other temporary symptoms of inflammation that can be part of that reaction.
“These symptoms mean your immune system is revving up and the vaccine is working,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a recent news briefing.
Certain painkillers that target inflammation, including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and other brands), might curb the immune response. A study on mice in the Journal of Virology found these drugs might lower production of antibodies — helpful substances that block the virus cells.
If you’re already taking one of those medications for a health condition, you should not stop before you get the vaccine — at least not without asking your doctor, said Jonathan Watanabe, a pharmacist at the University of California, Irvine.
People should not take a painkiller as a preventive measure before getting a vaccine unless a doctor has told them to, he said. The same goes for after a shot: “If you don’t need to take it, you shouldn’t,” Watanabe said.
If you do need one, acetaminophen (Tylenol) “is safer because it doesn’t alter your immune response,” he added.
Older adults show resilience in pandemic
Older adults have generally been viewed as among those at higher risk in a COVID-saturated, increasingly isolated world.
When it comes to mental and emotional health, however, older adults in the United States are showing resilience and persevering despite struggles with loneliness and isolation, the latest self-reported results in an ongoing study suggest.
The latest data from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project, conducted by the social research organization NORC at the University of Chicago, is part of a longer-term study designed to track the physical and emotional well-being of older Americans over time.
A majority of older adults reported good mental health. Only 9% of older adults reported having “fair or poor overall mental health” during the pandemic, similar to their previous answers.
Nevertheless, the study found that general happiness has declined. About half as many older adults now report they are very happy or extremely happy, and an increasing number report occasional feelings of depression or isolation.
“It should sensitize everyone to the reality of isolation’s impact, but also the reality that people are resilient — and maybe even more so older adults than younger adults,” said Louise Hawkley, principal research scientist at NORC and the lead researcher on the study.
“They’ve been through things already. They know how to handle stress,” Hawkley said. “This is something we can learn from them — that there is survival.”
The information comes from 1,284 respondents between the ages of 55 and 99, interviewed in September and October — all of them participants in a longer-term study that also collected data in person in 2015-2016. No margin of error was provided.
Vaccinated people can meet without masks
Fully vaccinated Americans can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing, according to long-awaited guidance from federal health officials.
The recommendations also say that vaccinated people can come together in the same way — in a single household — with people considered at low-risk for severe disease, such as in the case of vaccinated grandparents visiting healthy children and grandchildren.
The guidance is designed to address a growing demand, as more adults have been getting vaccinated and wondering if it gives them greater freedom to visit family members, travel or do other things like they did before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world last year.
“With more and more people vaccinated each day, we are starting to turn a corner,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
She said more activities would be okayed for vaccinated individuals once caseloads and deaths decline, more Americans are vaccinated, and as more science emerges on whether those who have been vaccinated may still get and spread the virus.
The CDC is continuing to recommend that fully vaccinated people still wear well-fitted masks, avoid large gatherings, and physically distance themselves from others when out in public.
The CDC also advised vaccinated people to get tested if they develop symptoms that could be related to COVID-19.
Officials say a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose of vaccine.
Restaurant dining may still be risky
A new national study adds strong evidence that mask mandates can slow the spread of the coronavirus, and that allowing dining at restaurants can increase cases and deaths.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the study in March.
“All of this is very consistent,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing. “You have decreases in cases and deaths when you wear masks, and you have increases in cases and deaths when you have in-person restaurant dining.”
The study was released just as some states are rescinding mask mandates and restaurant limits. The CDC researchers looked at U.S. counties placed under state-issued mask mandates and at counties that allowed restaurant dining — both indoors and at tables outside. The study looked at data from March through December of last year.
CDC officials stopped short of saying that on-premises dining needs to stop. But they said if restaurants do open, they should follow as many prevention measures as possible, like promoting outdoor dining, having adequate indoor ventilation, masking employees, and calling on customers to wear masks whenever they aren’t eating or drinking.