Is It Safe to Take Ibuprofen if You Have COVID-19 Symptoms?

Reports that taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help with COVID-19 symptoms, e.g., fever and body aches, are harmful have led people to use acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol.

Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), used to relieve aches and lower fevers, according to the Cleveland Clinic. However, there’s no evidence that this class of drugs is harmful for people with COVID-19.

“There is no scientific proven data or studies showing that ibuprofen or the class of NSAIDs is harmful when given for mild, moderate, or severe infectious diseases. Recommendations on avoiding ibuprofen are premature,” says Carl Fichtenbaum, M.D., of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine Division of Infectious Diseases.

The World Health Organization offered an official stance this week:

Q: Could #ibuprofen worsen disease for people with #COVID19?

A: Based on currently available information, WHO does not recommend against the use of of ibuprofen.

Here’s why you’re seeing conflicting reports.

French Health Minister Olivier Véran tweeted a message urging the public to avoid anti-inflammatory medications. An English translation: “Taking anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, cortisone, …) could be a factor in worsening the infection. If you have a fever, take paracetamol. If you are already on anti-inflammatory drugs or in doubt, ask your doctor for advice.”

⚠️ #COVIDー19 | La prise d’anti-inflammatoires (ibuprofène, cortisone, …) pourrait être un facteur d’aggravation de l’infection. En cas de fièvre, prenez du paracétamol.
Si vous êtes déjà sous anti-inflammatoires ou en cas de doute, demandez conseil à votre médecin.

(For clarification, acetaminophen is the U.S. equivalent of the referenced paracetamol.)

A few days prior, researchers theorized that taking ibuprofen may increase your risk of developing severe COVID-19, according to a letter published in The Lancet. Prior research shows that the coronavirus enters cells by latching onto an enzyme called ACE2. The Lancet paper suggests that ibuprofen may increase the amount of ACE2 receptors and therefore make you more vulnerable to getting sick.

But there’s more: The number of ACE2 receptors someone has isn’t correlated with risk, Rachel Graham, a virologist at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, explained to NPR.

“You can have low levels of ACE2 and still be susceptible,” Graham said. Plus, there’s just no evidence that taking ibuprofen increases these receptors, she said.

So, is ibuprofen safe to take if you have COVID-19?

Talk with a doctor who’s familiar with your medical history if you’re concerned about taking ibuprofen to manage symptoms of COVID-19.

“There does not appear to be any good scientific evidence to advise against using ibuprofen to manage symptoms of Coronavirus,” says Kristin Mondy, M.D., Chief, Division of Infectious Disease, Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. “Patients should choose ibuprofen and/or acetaminophen based on other underlying diseases and/or risk factors for medication toxicity that they may have.”

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