Congratulations! You’re probably here because you’ve received your first shot of a Covid-19 vaccine—or your appointment is coming up very soon. While vaccination comes with many benefits, there are also possible side effects to contend with. These could be severe, such as allergic reactions and blood clots, but the majority of us will only experience mild symptoms or none at all.
These are the more common side effects you can expect
On the arm where the shot was given:
Swollen lymph nodes under the armpit
Throughout the rest of your body:
Muscle and/or joint pain
Some of these side effects are similar to symptoms of Covid-19. However, a sore throat, runny nose or cough are not side effects of vaccination. If you do experience these symptoms after your shot, contact your health provider or the nearest Covid-19 testing facility.
So, why do Covid-19 vaccines cause side effects?
Not to worry: Mild side effects are normal signs that your body is responding to the vaccine and building protection. That said, not experiencing side effects doesn’t mean the Covid-19 vaccine isn’t working or will be less effective. Factors such as age, pre-existing health conditions and genetics influence your body’s immune response—which is also why some of us take longer to recover from the side effects.
You may experience more intense side effects after the second dose
Most Covid-19 vaccines You’re likely to experience stronger side effects the second time round because the vaccine triggers a stronger immune response from your body. Put simply, your body has learnt to react and adjust to the virus from the first dose. So when your body is given the second dose, it’s more aggressive in strengthening your protection against the virus.
What to do before your next vaccine appointment
Get a good night’s sleep and drink enough water. (The benchmark is 15.5 cups or 3.7 litres of fluids a day for men, and 11.5 cups or 2.7 liters for women.) Doing these may not prevent you from experiencing side effects. However, being exhausted and dehydrated prior to getting your Covid-19 shot may worsen any subsequent symptoms. The CDC doesn’t recommend taking pain relievers before getting jabbed, as these will lower your immune response—the opposite of how your body should be responding to the vaccine.
How to cope with the side effects
Take a day or two off work to recover.
Place a clean, cool, and wet washcloth over the site of the shot. Go to bed early and rest as much, and as often, as necessary.
Gently move your vaccinated arm to stimulate blood flow. This will help to disperse the inflammation and swelling more quickly. However, do not massage the vaccine site with your hand; that could worsen inflammation and pain.
Take hot showers to relieve muscle and joint pain.
Pain medication can help with managing intense discomfort. In some cases, you may need medication to relieve the pain, so you can rest. However, always speak to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter drugs.
Drink lots of water; especially if you have flu-like symptoms such as a fever, headache, or chills. One way to know if you should be drinking more water is to stick out your tongue. If it’s white, you’re not sufficiently hydrated.
Eat nourishing food. Turmeric and garlic are great for boosting your immune system. So are prebiotics—found in fibre-rich foods like fruits, vegetables and wholegrains; and probiotics—present in cultured yoghurts, fermented foods like kimchi and miso, and fermented drinks like kombucha and kefir. Protein will also support your body in building immunity and recovering from the process.
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When to call the doctor
Most people recover from the side effects of Covid-19 vaccination in around 24 to 48 hours. That said, there isn’t a single, standard response to Covid-19 vaccines.
If you have difficulty breathing after getting your shot, alert the staff on duty immediately. Likewise, see a doctor if you develop hives, or the swelling on your arm doesn’t subside after 24 hours. Seek medical help too if any of your symptoms do not ease up after a few days.
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With one million more doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccination set to open for opt-in registration on 23 May, we hope you’ll find this guide helpful in managing your post-jab ailments.
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