The COVID-19 pandemic is an ever-evolving situation. With this virus being the main topic of conversation, there is a lot of information circulating that may or not be true. One recent topic of discussion surrounding the virus and its treatment is the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs (e.g. ibuprofen).
But is there any real evidence to back up these claims? Here is all of the information you need about COVID-19 and anti-inflammatory medications, like ibuprofen, and their effects on COVID-19 symptoms.
Is there evidence that Ibuprofen makes COVID-19 symptoms worse?
At present, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not aware of any evidence that ibuprofen and similar medications make COVID-19 symptoms worse. Though we have all been affected by the pandemic, there is still much we do not know about the virus. Initially, there were reports from outside the U.S. that reported against taking Ibuprofen due to claims that otherwise healthy people who tested positive for COVID-19, were taking an NSAID, and then developed severe symptoms. The connections at this point are largely circumstantial and based on individual observations of a very small number of cases.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently conducted a study to review the evidence, especially since they have been repeatedly adjusting their recommendations in response to new information. They reviewed a variety of previous studies on NSAIDs and severe respiratory infections, and their final conclusion is that there’s no strong evidence to suggest that these medications worsen COVID-19 systems.
However, one limitation of the study is that there have not been specific experimental studies on COVID-19 and ibuprofen. The studies analyzed by the WHO were focused on other, similar infections. Because COVID-19 is a relatively new virus, it will take time for these studies to be completed.
What other health concerns are there with Ibuprofen?
While there is not a lot of evidence to suggest that ibuprofen makes COVID-19 worse, there are still a few points to consider about using NSAID medications for COVID-19.
First, one study did connect ibuprofen to a potential increase in certain receptors that the COVID-19 virus uses to infect cells. This means that it may cause the virus to spread faster (even if symptoms are not worse). However, this is a very preliminary, theoretical result, and there have been no official recommendations made in response to it.
One other point of consideration is that NSAIDs, in general, have been long known to interfere with the detection of infections. All NSAID labels clearly state, “The pharmacological activity of NSAIDs in reducing inflammation, and possibly fever, may diminish the utility of diagnostic signs in detecting infections.” However, this is not unique to COVID-19.
So while ibuprofen does not appear to make COVID-19 worse, it may contribute to its spread. For now, the truth is still not fully known.
What should I do to keep my family safe?
Because there is no evidence that ibuprofen makes COVID-19 symptoms worse, there is no strong reason to avoid ibuprofen. However, the FDA recommends reading all labels on over-the-counter medications and only taking them as directed. In addition, make sure you do not exceed taking more than 800 milligrams per dose or 3200 milligrams per day of ibuprofen.
If you are concerned about possible negative effects of ibuprofen, there are other pain relief options available, particularly acetaminophen. However, if you choose to take acetaminophen, make sure that you do not take more than 3,000 milligrams per day. In any event, it is important to consult with your doctor before starting any new medication, as some conditions require a much lower dose of medication. If you are pregnant or recently pregnant, your OBGYN can advise you on what’s safest for you and your baby.
About the practice
Dr. John Garofalo, M.D., is a CT OBGYN based in Fairfield County, providing care for Norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, Weston, Rowayton and the surrounding areas. He has more than 20 years of practice and surgical experience covering many facets of obstetrics and gynecology.
Laury Berkwitt, APRN, is a nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Women undergoing signs and symptoms of menopause can make an appointment with Laury for Hormone Replacement Therapy. Laury has a passion for providing quality women’s health care in a safe and comfortable manner by creating a trusting patient-practitioner relationship. She has been in practice for more than 10 years, caring for women of all ages.