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Four things to do before getting the coronavirus vaccine

You’re scheduled to get the COVID-19 vaccine. What should you do to prepare beforehand?

Kinzi Shewmake, M.D., a Piedmont family medicine physician, recommends four ways to prepare before you get vaccinated.

1. Talk to your primary care provider if you have a chronic health condition.

“If you have a chronic medical condition, you should have a conversation with your primary care provider to make sure you meet the criteria for the vaccine and there are no contraindications to getting vaccinated,” says Dr. Shewmake. “Some people with autoimmune conditions, such as Crohn’s disease or rheumatoid arthritis, may need to have their dosing schedule adjusted.”

She says you should also talk to your doctor if you have:

  • Previously had an allergic reaction to a vaccine

  • A history of anaphylaxis or allergies to a specific chemical in the vaccine, such as polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate

“Checking with your provider doesn’t have to be an office visit,” adds Dr. Shewmake. “If you have a patient portal, you can send your provider a quick message letting them know you’re scheduled to get vaccinated and ask if they recommend you get the shot.”

2. Learn about the vaccine.

“I’m a firm believer that knowledge is power,” she says. “We want you to have knowledge about the vaccine to help you feel more comfortable when you receive the shot. And if you have side effects, you’ll know how to treat them or when to call your primary care physician.”

But don’t dwell too much on the possible serious side effects – they are extremely rare, she adds.

3. Get plenty of sleep, eat well and hydrate.

“You’re about to put your body under a certain amount of stress receiving the vaccination, so you want to go into your appointment with your A-game,” says Dr. Shewmake. 

Get a good night’s sleep, drink plenty of water and eat regularly to keep your blood sugar steady. Taking care of yourself helps your body function properly.

If your appointment falls during a mealtime, eat beforehand, she says.

4. Plan to take it easy the next day.

“Most people do fine with the vaccine, but it’s a good idea to take it easy the day after,” says Dr. Shewmake. “Don’t go out and run a marathon, but if you’re feeling fine, you can do your regular activities. Listen to your body.”

You may have symptoms like heaviness or tenderness in your arm, fever, headache, fatigue or chills the next day.

“If you have mild muscle aches or joint pain, it’s OK to take ibuprofen or Tylenol afterward as long as you don’t have a history of a reaction to either of those,” she says. “That said, we don’t recommend pre-medicating before getting vaccinated.”

Should you get a COVID-19 test before getting vaccinated?

Dr. Shewmake says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hasn’t released recommendations to get a COVID-19 test before getting vaccinated, so she’s not recommending it to her patients. But if the guidance changes, her recommendations will change.

If you’re unsure about the vaccine, talk to your provider.

If you have questions or concerns about getting the vaccine, reach out to your primary care provider.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there on the Internet and amongst family and friends,” says Dr. Shewmake. “I hope that before someone writes off getting a COVID-19 vaccine, they would have an educated conversation with their primary care provider. The majority of people do fine with this vaccination.”

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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