A: When it’s finally your turn for the vaccine (yay!), there are a few simple things you can do to help everything go smoothly.
Learn about the vaccine, know which arm you want your shot in, wear loose fitting clothing, drink plenty of water, and talk to your primary care clinician about any questions you might have.
💪Pick your arm: Either arm is ok for getting the shot. Many clinicians recommend getting the vaccine in your non-dominant arm (not the arm you write with). This way if you have any pain after the vaccination, the arm that hurts isn’t the arm you use most often! However, you may choose to get the vaccine in the other arm. Finicky sleepers who need to sleep on one side, for example, may choose the arm on the opposite side. Or folks with medical problems in one arm may choose the other. Good news is, there is no wrong choice.
Bettina from Philly and several others (thanks for the great question!) noticed swelling and pain in the arm after the first shot and were wondering if it they need to switch arms. It is ok to get the shot in the same arm or mix it up. Dealer’s choice.
👕Wear loose fitting clothing: The vaccine is administered to the deltoid muscle. Wearing clothing that can easily expose your arm will make the process easier and keep you from having to strip out of your shirt! This is especially good advice if you are going to a drive thru or public site without a lot of privacy from other folks.
🥤Hydrate and eat a snack: Drink plenty of water and eat something before your vaccine, particularly if you are someone who faints when they get shots. Avoid alcohol the night before and the day of. Let your vaccinator know if you are someone who passes out with shots. Seriously, they appreciate the heads up. You can still absolutely get the vaccine, but they may have you lie down or watch you extra closely to make sure you don’t hit the floor.
🙂Relax: Let’s be honest, getting a shot is not everyone’s idea of a great time. The COVID-19 vaccine uses a very tiny needle, so many people say they do not feel the shot going in. Others do. Everyone is different. Taking some deep breaths and relaxing your arm can help.
🚫Don’t pre-medicate: Do not take any pain relieving or antihistamine medications prior to your vaccination. Anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen could theoretically reduce the immune response to the vaccine. Antihistamines might hide early signs of allergic reactions. These medicines can be taken after the vaccine as long as there are no medical reasons not to (ask your clinician if it is safe for you to take these medicines).
🧠Learn about the vaccine: Before your vaccine appointment, take a few minutes to learn about the vaccine, how it works, safety and efficacy data, and expected side effects. Check our trusted sources like @DearPandemic (😉) or the @CDC.
🩺Ask your primary care clinician all your questions: It is important for you to feel comfortable with your vaccine choices and have all your questions answered. Your PCP is there for you for this very reason! Trust us, they LOVE answering these questions.
After vaccination, you can use a cool, damp cloth to soothe any pain or discomfort and exercising the arm can help too! Save your vaccine card and store it somewhere safe. And consider signing up for V-Safe, the text message-based system that allows you to report any potential side effects to the CDC and lets us all participate in our robust vaccine safety monitoring programs.
The @AAFP has some great resources. (This one has videos of our very own, Dr. Coles!)