Should You Avoid Taking Ibuprofen If You Have COVID-19 Symptoms?

The debate about using ibuprofen in COVID-19 patients was started by French Health Minister Olivier Veran.

Cover image via Reuters/The Straits Times & Unsplash

French officials recently warned the public that widely used anti-inflammatory drugs can worsen the effects of the COVID-19 infection

Olivier Veran, the French Health Minister who is a qualified doctor and neurologist, tweeted last weekend, "The taking of anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen and cortisone, could be a factor in aggravating the [COVID-19] infection."

"In case of fever, take paracetamol," he wrote.

The minister then stressed that patients already being treated with anti-inflammatory drugs should seek advice from their doctor.

According to The Guardian, French health officials believe that these over-the-counter drugs may diminish a patient's immune response while fighting the fever.

They instead recommended patients treating themselves at home to use paracetamol because "it will reduce the fever without counter-attacking the inflammation".

A nurse checks the temperature of a visitor as part of the coronavirus screening procedure at a hospital in Kuala Lumpur in February.

Image via Reuters/The Straits Times

In response to this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) also initially warned against the use of ibuprofen in COVID-19 patients

According to New Straits Times, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier earlier told reporters in Geneva that they were "looking into this to give further guidance".
"In the meantime, we rather recommend using paracetamol, and do not use ibuprofen as a self-medication. That's important," he said.
He then added that if ibuprofen had been "prescribed by the healthcare professionals, then, of course, that's up to them".

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via Unsplash

However, just yesterday, 19 March, WHO retracted their initial recommendation, saying, "Based on currently available information, WHO does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen"

WHO stated that they were "consulting with physicians treating COVID-19 patients and are not aware of reports of any negative effects of ibuprofen, beyond the usual known side effects that limit its use in certain populations".

They also acknowledged that there was no published clinical or population-based data on this issue.

Image for illustration purposes only.

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Therefore, while there has been no evidence of ibuprofen aggravating the COVID-19 infection, it may still be safer to use paracetamol at home

"It seems sensible to stick to paracetamol as first choice, especially for vulnerable patients," Dr Charlotte Warren-Gash of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told BBC.

Meanwhile, Associate Professor Louis Irving of Royal Melbourne Hospital said it is possible that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may alter the body's inflammatory response to infection "in an adverse way".

"Therefore, if you need something for the fever and the aches and pains [of COVID-19], the concept of using paracetamol rather than [ibuprofen] to me makes sense," he said.

Meanwhile, doctors are also finding out the long-term effects of COVID-19 in recovered patients:

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