Dr, Mallika Marshall shares some advice about what you should and should not do before getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
- As more people become eligible to get the coronavirus vaccine, there are a lot of questions about what we should and shouldn't do before getting that first shot. Dr. Mallika Marshall joins us now live with some advice. And Doctor, it feels good to be talking about this. What should you do in the days before your appointment. If you can, should you take some time off?
MALLIKA MARSHALL: Yes, I think it's reasonable. You know, a lot of people don't develop side effects from the vaccines, but a lot of people do. And so you might feel some soreness, headache, achiness, fatigue, chills, fever-- more common after the second dose than the first dose. But because you might develop those things, you might want to consider taking the day off that you're getting the vaccine and possibly the day after just so if you're not feeling great, you don't have to call in sick.
- You know, a lot of us have had trouble sleeping during the pandemic, myself included. If you can, though, obviously, you should get a good night's sleep before the appointment.
MALLIKA MARSHALL: That's right. This is not the night before to stay up till 2:00 AM. Definitely try to get your rest because we know that good rest can help boost the immune system.
- What about vitamins? Do you think vitamins make a difference?
MALLIKA MARSHALL: Well, you know, you've heard me say before that those people who are vitamin D deficient really should be taking vitamin D supplements in consultation with their doctors. Many of us are that way. So many of us probably should be taking vitamin D supplements. But whether you need to take special vitamins in the days before you get your vaccine, not necessary.
- OK, so let's move ahead to the day of. So I get allergy shots, so I have to think about this once a month. Is there anything special you should wear the day that you go to get the vaccine?
MALLIKA MARSHALL: Well, you're gonna get the vaccine in your upper arm. So you want to wear loose fitting clothing, a sweater that you can pull up over your shoulder, or a short-sleeve shirt, just so that someone can actually get to your arm.
- OK, and what about eating or drinking right before the appointment?
MALLIKA MARSHALL: You always want to stay hydrated. And it's probably not a bad idea to eat something before you get the vaccine. Some people do develop nausea afterwards. You don't want to have a big meal. I would eat something bland. And I definitely would not drink alcohol the night before-- one, because it can be dehydrating, and two, you don't want to show up for your vaccine with a hangover.
- That is no way to show up for a vaccine, certainly. People always wonder, too, based on some of the stories they've heard, if there's a way to feel better. Should you premedicate with Tylenol or ibuprofen or with an antihistamine like Benadryl before the shot?
MALLIKA MARSHALL: You do not need to premedicate with over-the-counter pain medications or allergy medicines. And in fact, the CDC is discouraging people from taking pain medicines before they get their vaccine because there's some concern that it might blunt the immune response. If you normally take these medications on a daily basis, then you should go ahead and take your normal medications. But don't take anything special.
- OK. Doctor, does it matter which arm you get the shot in?
MALLIKA MARSHALL: It's a matter of personal preference. I mean, a lot of people prefer getting shots in their non-dominant arm because your arm probably is gonna feel sore. But some people prefer to have it in the dominant arm so that they can move it around to make it feel better-- completely up to you.
- And what happens after you get the shot?
MALLIKA MARSHALL: So I think people are gonna be really surprised by how quick the process is once you get that appointment and you actually sit in the chair. It really is no different than getting a flu vaccine. It doesn't hurt any more than that.
You're gonna be asked to stick around for about 15 minutes just so they can make sure that you aren't gonna have an immediate reaction to the vaccine. But then you can go home. It's really quick and painless.
- We have heard, though, a fair number of stories of people who don't feel as great, particularly after the second shot. What happens if you do start to feel sick after you get the vaccine?
MALLIKA MARSHALL: So if you're not feeling well, again, it's very common. So I don't want someone to think that they've gotten COVID. You can't get COVID from the shot. It is very common to get side effects, and just think of it as your immune system doing what it's supposed to be doing, getting ready to combat the virus. So it's all good.
If you need to take over-the-counter pain or fever reducers, then you can do that to feel more comfortable. If your arm is sore, you can apply ice or a hot pack. If, however-- and the symptoms usually do get better within about 36 hours-- but if you get hives, difficulty breathing, chest pain, dizziness, anything that you find concerning, then you need to get into the emergency room.
- Excellent. Dr. Mallika Marshall, thank you so much.