Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It can reduce inflammation and ease several symptoms, including pain and fever. It is safe for people with COVID-19 to take — there is no evidence that ibuprofen increases the risk of harm from COVID-19 or the vaccines that protect against this disease.

COVID-19 can cause a wide range of symptoms, including fever, sore throat, and loss of taste or smell. Over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, can help treat these symptoms.

There were initial concerns about the safety of people with COVID-19 taking ibuprofen, but these claims originated from anecdotal and low-quality evidence. Major public health bodies around the world do not advise against using ibuprofen to ease COVID-19 symptoms or the side effects of the vaccine.

Keep reading to learn more about the initial safety concerns about taking ibuprofen with COVID-19 and the evidence surrounding the use of the drug with this condition.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest taking medications, including ibuprofen, for treating COVID-19 outside of the hospital.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also states there is no evidence of severe side effects from taking ibuprofen in people with COVID-19. However, the study that helped the organization draw this conclusion did not involve direct evidence from individuals with COVID-19.

Despite the latest guidance, there were initial concerns over the safety of people with COVID-19 taking ibuprofen.

Learn about safe dosages of ibuprofen.

A 2020 paper suggested that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, affects the body through angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). ACE2 is an enzyme that influences bodily processes such as blood pressure.

Ibuprofen is an NSAID, one of the most common drugs for treating a range of health conditions. They reduce inflammation in the body, a process that contributes to many diseases, including COVID-19.

Taking ibuprofen can increase ACE2 levels in the body. This connection led to the theory that the drug could increase the risk of developing COVID-19 or worsen its symptoms. Leading medical journals, including The British Medical Journal, also published papers suggesting possible risks of NSAIDs.

Major public health bodies also urged caution on using NSAIDs in people with COVID-19, including the WHO. However, health experts based these decisions on anecdotal or low-quality experimental evidence, and there remains no evidence to support this theory.

For example, the WHO conducted a comprehensive review of 73 clinical trials on the safety of NSAIDs for individuals with COVID-19 in 2020. The researchers found no evidence of a link between taking NSAIDs and severe side effects, reduced recovery times, or death in people with the disease.

A more recent 2021 study in The Lancet Rheumatology examined data from 72,179 people from 255 healthcare facilities across the United Kingdom. They found no evidence of an association between NSAID use and a higher risk of death or more severe illness in those with COVID-19.

All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date.

There is no evidence that ibuprofen can worsen the symptoms of COVID-19.

There were initial concerns that this drug could worsen COVID-19 symptoms by increasing ACE2 levels. The theory stated that higher amounts of ACE2 could assist SARS-CoV-2 in attacking healthy cells around the body. However, there is still no evidence to support this.

Doctors may recommend taking NSAIDs to improve the symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever. Healthcare professionals also suggest taking ibuprofen for similar conditions, such as influenza. Additionally, the drug can alleviate other COVID-19 symptoms, such as muscle aches and pains.

The recommended treatments for COVID-19 depend on its severity and a person’s overall health.

Ibuprofen or acetaminophen

Some treatment approaches aim to reduce pain and discomfort. For example, doctors may recommend ibuprofen or acetaminophen (paracetamol) as a pain reliever for COVID-19.

Learn more about ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and their differences.

Remdesivir

Other treatment approaches aim to reduce pain by slowing the virus or disease progression.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved remdesivir, an antiviral medication, for treating COVID-19.

Hospital treatment

Doctors may administer different treatments in patients in the hospital with COVID-19, such as blood thinners.

Learn more about what hospital treatment might involve for people with COVID-19.

The CDC recommends talking with a doctor about taking ibuprofen to help with the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, could reduce some side effects, such as fever, chills, or muscle aches.

However, the agency advises against taking ibuprofen before getting the vaccine to avoid its side effects.

Side effects of the vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccines can cause side effects, as with any medication. However, these are typically mild and resolve within a few days. The side effects can include:

  • pain, flushed skin, and swelling at the injection site
  • tiredness
  • head and muscle aches
  • chills
  • fever
  • nausea

It is important to note that severe or long-lasting side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine are extremely rare.

Learn more about remedies for potential vaccine side effects.

There is currently no evidence that taking ibuprofen can increase the risk of developing COVID-19 or worsening symptoms. There is also no research stating that ibuprofen increases the risk of death from COVID-19 or complications following the vaccine.

There were initial concerns over the safety of taking ibuprofen with COVID-19 due to its effect on ACE2 levels within the body. However, this theory still lacks evidence. NSAIDs help people manage some COVID-19 symptoms and vaccine side effects, such as fever.