You may have read the reports discussing ibuprofen use with the coronavirus, and if so, you might have also noticed there’s a lot of conflicting info going around. Is ibuprofen dangerous to take if you’re fighting the coronavirus? What if you took it in the week or two before you got sick? We dug deep to find the source of the original reports, and we found that the truth to the matter might be a little too complicated to answer with a simple yes or no.
Some authorities insist that ibuprofen can worsen symptoms due to negative effects it can have on inflammation, while others say there’s no evidence that it poses any danger to COVID-19 patients. The truth may lie somewhere in the middle ground. Ibuprofen can be dangerous to people with damaged kidneys, and although it’s rare, COVID-19 can sometimes also cause kidney damage. People who are seriously ill should be aware of kidney failure symptoms, and they should stop all medications and seek medical attention immediately if they suspect complications. We learned much more about what you need to know about ibuprofen and the coronavirus so let's get to it.
Researchers first raised the alarm after a study published in The Lancet found patients who’d died of coronavirus complications were more likely to have been on specific medications. These medications, which include certain treatments for heart disease and diabetes, reduce levels of a compound called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) in the blood. Coincidentally, low ACE levels also happen to increase inflammation, which can worsen lung complications. Ibuprofen may have initially fallen under fire because it, too, reduces ACE levels in the body.
News reports really started flooding in after a March 14 Tweet from French Health Minister, Olivier Véran, warning people that anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen might worsen COVID-19 symptoms. A report released from The Guardian that same day advised people to choose acetaminophen over ibuprofen to control fever and body aches. But are the recommendations actually warranted?
On March 19, the FDA released an official response to the growing panic over NSAID use. The agency assured the public that ibuprofen was safe, even for people fighting COVID-19, as long as they used it as prescribed. The agency also advised people to read over-the-counter drug label information to ensure the drug is safe for them.
The World Health Organization also walked back its warning and now says it may be fine to use. And that’s really the concern: Is ibuprofen safe specifically for you?
None of the information circulating on ibuprofen’s dangers is completely false, but the whole truth does appear to lie somewhere in the middle ground. NSAIDs can carry a risk for people with severe asthma, nasal polyps and chronic sinusitis, for example, so ibuprofen shouldn’t be the medication of choice to treat people with those conditions. Ibuprofen can also affect the kidneys, so it should never be taken by people with impaired renal function.
Since kidney failure is sometimes a complication in severe COVID-19 infections, people with kidney disease should be aware of that risk. Anyone exhibiting signs of kidney involvement should stop taking all over-the-counter medications and seek immediate medical assistance. The American Kidney Fund explains the symptoms to watch out for:
It’s equally important to keep in mind that COVID-19 can damage the liver as well, which could make acetaminophen just as dangerous in some rare instances.
Talk to a doctor if you have any concerns over which over-the-counter medication might be best for you if you need to treat COVID-19 discomfort and fever.
Ibuprofen does have its dangers, but most of us are okay to take it as long as we don’t have certain underlying health issues — but this applies all the time, not just in the era of coronavirus. Regardless of the medications used to treat symptoms of coronavirus if you do get sick, be on the lookout for signs of severe illness or organ involvement. COVID-19 can be serious so the extra energy spent in being alert is warranted. No one is completely safe from this disease’s potentially deadly effects. Stay safe out there.