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CDC Says You May Have These Side Effects After COVID Vaccine

What to watch for, and how to treat them.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab
Female doctor or nurse giving shot or vaccine to a patient's shoulder

Experiencing minor side effects is very common after any vaccination—even the seasonal flu shot—and the COVID vaccines are no exception. Side effects are actually a good sign: They mean your immune system is booting up to build a response to a particular pathogen. In the case of the COVID-19 vaccines produced by Modern, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson, a majority of people in clinical trials reported mild, temporary symptoms after getting the shots. Here's what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says are the most common side effects and the best ways to treat them. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, remember: Doctors Say "DO NOT" Do This After Your COVID Vaccine

1

Pain in Your Injection Arm

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The most common side effect is pain in the vaccinated arm. It's usually minor and goes away after a day or so. If you're uncomfortable, the CDC recommends applying a "clean, cool wet washcloth" to the area and using or exercising the affected arm. You only need to call a doctor if pain or swelling gets worse after 24 hours.

2

Redness or Swelling in Your Injection Arm

A man experiencing discomfort in his upper arm
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If you have redness or swelling, applying a cold compress and exercising the arm can help. For these symptoms and pain, the CDC says you can take over-the-counter pain relievers if you're able to do so normally. Don't take pain relievers before your vaccine, though—experts aren't sure if that can compromise the vaccine's effectiveness.

3

Tiredness

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Fatigue is a very common side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine. In clinical trials, it was reported by 68% of people who got the Moderna vaccine, 63% who got the Pfizer vaccine, and 38% who received the Johnson & Johnson shot. Take it easy and rest; you might want to take the day following the vaccine off work if you can.

4

Headache

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A headache is the third-most-common side effect reported by people in clinical trials of all three current vaccines: Moderna (63%), Pfizer (55%), and Johnson & Johnson (39%). Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help (but only if your doctor says those medications are safe for you to take). 

5

Muscle Pain

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Muscle pain is common after any vaccination, and with the COVID vaccine, you might feel it throughout your body. "A few people mentioned to me that they felt like they just did a high interval impact training," said Dr. Bonnie Maldonado, a professor of pediatrics and infectious-disease expert at Stanford University School of Medicine, told Today.com. "Their muscles felt sore. And not just at the site of the injection." Rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take over-the-counter pain relievers if you need to. 

6

Chills or Fever

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Chills and fever are common immune responses—it's the body trying to raise its temperature to kill off invading pathogens. As with the other side effects, experts advise drinking plenty of fluids and allowing yourself to rest. If you have a fever, drink plenty of fluids and dress lightly, the CDC recommends. 

7

How to Survive This Pandemic

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Even after vaccination, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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