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Ibuprofen and Coronavirus: Is It Still Safe to Take This Painkiller?

See what the officials really have to say about this rumor.


There are countless rumors surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19), but one that’s currently causing a lot of confusion is whether or not we can take ibuprofen to treat everyday aches and pains.

The information stems from a tweet sent out on March 14 by French health minister Olivier Véran, in which he said anti-inflammatory medicine like ibuprofen (such as Advil) could worsen the symptoms of the coronavirus infection. He recommended switching to acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) to help reduce fevers, something most of us already use it for anyway. 

Unsurprisingly, his message quickly caused panic across the globe. Just like cleaning products, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer, popular acetaminophen products seemed to vanish from shelves over night — all based on this one short statement. 

But where did this info come from? A letter published in The Lancet medical journal a few days before Véran’s statement seemed to back this claim up. The researchers cited evidence that the virus attaches to certain enzymes in our lungs called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). They hypothesized that ibuprofen could increase the number of those enzymes in a person, making them more susceptible to adverse reactions to the virus.

The key word here is “hypothesized,” though. Rachel Graham, a virologist at the University of North Carolina, told NPR that the level of ACE2 in your body doesn’t necessarily make you more or less vulnerable — and that there isn’t much evidence that shows ibuprofen makes a difference in those levels, anyway.

Still, many outlets reported the warning against ibuprofen and that it had even been confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO). On the contrary, the organization has cleared things up with a tweet of their own saying, “Based on currently available information, WHO does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen.” See the full statement below:

So, for now, it doesn’t seem like we should worry about avoiding ibuprofen for our aches, including arthritis, menstrual cramps, and back pain. That said, if you want to stock up on acetaminophen just to be safe but can’t find any Tylenol or other options online or at your drug stores, there’s one brand you’ve probably forgotten about: Midol ($6.67, Amazon). The menstrual relief medicine is a mixture of acetaminophen, caffeine, and antihistamine — and yes, men can take it, too, even if they’re feeling pangs of non-period related pain. Just remember to only get as much as you really need and save some for the rest of us! (And only take the recommended dosage, of course.)

Above all, it’s important to not simply believe everything you see about coronavirus that comes across your social media feeds. We know anxieties are high, but we’ll all be better off if we take time to do a little research — and take a nice, calming breath — before freaking out.

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