How You Can Ease Side Effects After Getting Your COVID-19 Vaccine

Vaccines are awesome. They can help protect us from dangerous viruses, like SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. But, as great as vaccines are, they can hurt. Few people actually enjoy getting shots, and the thought of an achy arm, headaches, or chills may turn some people off from getting vaccinated.

However, it’s so important to get the COVID-19 vaccine to protect yourselves and others. In the midst of this pandemic, the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks. Getting vaccinated when you are eligible to is the responsible thing to do.

The Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson shots can cause discomfort for a few days. Common side effects include body aches, chills, fevers, sore arms and headaches. However, not everyone has side effects, or if they do, may not experience them as strongly as others. There are definitely ways to try and make your experience as comfortable as possible.

covid vaccine one bottle Photo by Daniel Schludi from Unsplash

Arm pain

One very common side effect of vaccines is a sore arm. A trend has gained traction on TikTok in recent weeks to combat this: users of the app have shared themselves swinging their arms in circles after getting their shot, hoping to avoid arm pain. Some also posted themselves doing push-ups immediately after their appointment. Does this actually help, though?

I spoke to Dr. Irena Liang, a family medicine specialist at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group, to hear her thoughts on reducing discomfort after the shot. She explains that there are two groups of side effects: localized and generalized. Localized side effects are at the site of injection, like a sore or feverish area in the arm. On the other hand, generalized side effects affect your whole body, such as a fever or chills.

So should you swing your arm around after getting your vaccine? “I think theoretically, this makes a lot of sense and it's reasonable,” Dr. Liang says. She further explains that vaccinations are injected into the deltoid muscle, so anything to get blood flowing in that muscle could potentially help ease arm pain.

Dr. Daisy Dodd, an infectious disease specialist at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California, seconds this advice. “It is useful after any vaccine, not just the [COVID-19] vaccine, to move your arm to increase blood flow and to help the fluid to get absorbed.”

As for exercises like push-ups, Dr. Liang gives them a thumbs up. “Working out the deltoid could help with that arm pain,” she says. A warm compress to the area can also relax the muscle and soothe arm pain and stiffness.

woman receiving swine flu vaccination in 1976   Photo by CDC from Unsplash

Generalized side effects

What about generalized side effects? Staying hydrated is, as always, a great idea! Hydration can help reduce or avoid symptoms like fever, body aches, or chills. Dr. Liang also recommends taking an over-the-counter pain killer after your vaccine appointment, if needed. But, always check with your physician before taking medication.

Some people will get really lucky and not get any symptoms at all. “Be reassured that they're still producing the antibodies, and their body is still working to ... produce an immune reaction,” Dr. Liang says. Not having any negative reaction shouldn’t be cause for concern, but celebration!

Becca Moszka, a senior English and political science major at Emory University, has gotten both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. After her second dose, she had uncomfortable side effects like a 102ºF fever, body aches, and a headache. Becca took some medication and rested up, and the symptoms went away after a few days.

globe with mask Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels After her first vaccine, Becca tried swinging her arm to help with the stiffness. She hadn’t seen the trend on TikTok, but her mom recommended moving her arm after the shot. “I definitely think the windmilling did help,” Becca says.

Despite her negative side effects, Becca thinks getting vaccinated was worth it. “I absolutely think a couple days of pain, in the grand scheme of things, is worthwhile.”

So, at the end of the day, you may have some uncomfortable side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. If your symptoms are severe, please contact your physician or call 911. Do your arm circles, stay hydrated and get vaccinated!