Can You Take Allergy Medicine After Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine? Doctors Explain

Experts say OTC antihistamines should be fine—but allergy shots warrant more caution.

No allergy season is easy, but this one might be particularly stressful if you’re feeling stuffy, itchy, and fatigued around the time of your COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

So far, nearly half of all Americans have received at least one dose of the available COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If your appointment is fast approaching, you might be wondering whether you can continue taking your usual allergy meds before and after your jab. Thankfully, most over-the-counter allergy drugs like antihistamines are perfectly safe to use—but the same isn’t necessarily true for allergy shots or prescription meds.

Here’s everything you need to know about taking allergy medications before and after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, according to doctors.

Can you take OTC allergy medications before or after the vaccine?

In short, yes. Over-the-counter antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays “will not affect vaccine efficacy,” says Purvi Parikh, M.D., an allergist with the Allergy & Asthma Network who specializes in infectious disease. So if you regularly rely on meds like Claritin, Flonase, or Zyrtec, you can keep taking them—even on the day of your appointment.

These medications help block your body’s reaction to allergens like pollen and dust, keeping swelling, itching, and congestion to a minimum; they don’t interfere with the production of antibodies spurred by the COVID-19 vaccines.

However, if you don’t take allergy medications daily, the CDC advises against taking them to try to mitigate potential side effects before your shot (just like their guidance with OTC pain medications like ibuprofen).

“You can take these medications to relieve post-vaccination side effects if you have no other medical reasons that prevent you from taking these medications normally,” the CDC explains.

What about allergy shots?

Out of an abundance of caution, you should avoid getting any routine allergy shots on the same day as your COVID-19 vaccination, says Abinash Virk, M.D., an infectious disease expert at the Mayo Clinic.

The reason: There isn’t enough research to determine whether getting the vaccine on the same day as an allergy shot is safe and effective, since any injection has the possibility, however faint, of messing with your body’s immune response. In this case, it’s just best to err on the side of caution. The recommended wait is “similar to how we separate vaccines from the COVID-19 vaccine by 14 days,” notes Dr. Virk. “We recommend 48-hour separation from allergy shots to decrease the risk of adverse effects from the vaccine.”

Experts at Penn Medicine, meanwhile, recommend separating shots by at least one full week. Ultimately, the decision will be up to you and your doctor, who knows your medical history and can take a personalized approach to your needs.

The same goes for prescription steroid medications for allergies, like Depo-Medrol and Kenalog, which have the potential to meddle with your immune system’s reaction to the COVID-19 vaccines, Dr. Parikh says. (Worth noting: One study published in March found no evidence that steroid injections interfere with vaccine efficacy, but the researchers still recommended caution for now.)

Should you worry about allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine?

Allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine are possible, but rare—they occur in every two to five people per million vaccinated, per the CDC. This type of allergic reaction almost always presents within 30 minutes of the shot, which is why you have to wait 15 to 30 minutes before leaving your vaccination site.

“The majority of allergy patients can take the vaccine with no problem.”

“Fortunately, vaccination providers have medicines available to effectively and immediately treat patients who experience anaphylaxis following vaccination,” the CDC notes. This means that you should not attempt to treat any adverse reaction on your own with OTC allergy medications.

Anyone with a history of severe allergic reactions for any reason should be aware of the risks of anaphylaxis from the COVID-19 vaccine. (Any vaccine, not just the COVID vaccines, can trigger a serious allergic reaction.) If you are allergic to polyethylene glycol, polysorbate, or any of the components in the available COVID-19 vaccines, you should not receive the vaccine, per the CDC.

When in doubt, talk to your doctor to discuss your options. “Consult an allergist if you are worried you may be allergic to the vaccine,” Dr. Parikh recommends. “The majority of allergy patients can take the vaccine with no problem.”

This article is accurate as of press time. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly evolves and the scientific community’s understanding of the novel coronavirus develops, some of the information may have changed since it was last updated. While we aim to keep all of our stories up to date, please visit online resources provided by the CDC, WHO, and your local public health department to stay informed on the latest news. Always talk to your doctor for professional medical advice.

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