Is it safe to take Ibuprofen to treat symptoms of COVID-19?

In a Nutshell

  • It was speculated that Ibuprofen can increase the risk of complications in COVID-19 patients in early 2020
  • Per latest FDA and WHO recommendations, there is no evidence or study that suggests Ibuprofen or other NSAIDS are unsafe among COVID-19 patients
  • Individuals who cannot take Ibuprofen due to certain risk factors can take Acetaminophen or other over the counter fever and pain relievers

Ibuprofen - Conflicting Information

Ibuprofen is a common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is available as an over the counter option for the management of pain and fever. Most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, pain and sore throat that can very well respond to Ibuprofen, however World Health Organization released a report in early 2020 according to which Ibuprofen should be avoided if you are suspecting COVID-19 infection. This report was released per the recommendations of some French doctors who observed that otherwise normal patients developed severe symptoms such as pneumonia after taking Ibuprofen for the management of their COVID-19 symptoms. The complications were believed to be caused by the alterations in the immune response due to Ibuprofen.

Since March 2020, more information and data has been released that has led WHO to change their stance.

Verdict -Is it safe to take Ibuprofen to treat symptoms of COVID-19?

Based on the data and studies performed by investigators across the globe, it has now been reported that Ibuprofen is safe and effective for the management of fever and aches in patients suffering from COVID-19. WHO has changed their stance in March 2020 after analyzing the data and case studies according to which Ibuprofen does not increase the risk of complications in COVID-19 patients.

When a foreign agent such as virus and bacteria enter our body, human body elicits an immune response to fight these foreign invaders. This battle between foreign invaders and body’s immune cells is mediated by inflammatory chemicals, which can present with fever, body ache, malaise, weakness, and overall feeling of unwell. Ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs exert their action by reducing the body’s inflammatory response and alleviating the symptoms of inflammation. It is imperative to mention that Ibuprofen does not treat or cure the infection.

There is still a lot of uncertainty among public regarding the safety of Ibuprofen. For all such individuals who are still skeptical of using Ibuprofen for COVID-19 management, there are several other over the counter treatment options that can alleviate the symptoms just like Ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Besides Ibuprofen, other drugs such as Acetaminophen can also be used. It is highly recommended to keep the dose of Acetaminophen under 3,000 milligrams per day. If your symptoms do not respond to Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen can be taken without any added risk of complications.

Are there any contraindications to NSAID (Ibuprofen use)?

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are generally safe and well-tolerated, but if you have following risk factors, you should ideally avoid NSAIDs (regardless of COVID status):

  • Elderly (or individuals over the age of 65 years) due to risk of complications like gastric bleeding
  • Individuals who have a history of recent surgery or gastric ulcers
  • Women who are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant
  • Women who are breastfeeding
  • Children under the age of 16 years
  • People who have a disease or illness of lung, heart, kidney, bowel, or blood circulation

Nuances/ Safety

  • The recommended dose of Ibuprofen is 400mg per dose that can be repeated every 4 to 6 hours.

Strength of Evidence:B
The inferences drawn in this article are based of small-scale studies, ongoing research, and current recommendations of renowned health organizations such as FDA, WHO, NHS and CDC.

Our Ruling

There was some confusion whether Ibuprofen is a safe treatment option for people suffering from COVID-19 infection. Latest data and research show that Ibuprofen is safe and can be used to address the minor symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever and body aches. Besides Ibuprofen, there are several other over the counter analgesics that can be used for COVID-19 management.

Our Sources:

  1. https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m1086.full
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/treatments-for-covid-19
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/nsaids/
  4. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-and-treatment/how-to-treat-symptoms-at-home/
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How we grade evidence?

Learn more about it here.