Whether you’re getting your first COVID-19 vaccine or your second booster, congratulations! You’re taking a huge step towards safeguarding your health and the health of your family, neighbors, and community.

Mild side effects are common after vaccines and boosters. But there are steps you can take after getting the COVID-19 vaccine to help prevent and manage these effects.

Keep reading to learn more about what you should and shouldn’t do in the days following your vaccination.

If you have COVID-19 or have recently been around someone who tested positive, talk with your doctor or healthcare professional about when you should get the vaccine. To avoid exposing others to the virus, don’t go for a vaccine until you know that it’s safe to do so.

If you’re not sure where to go for your vaccine, you can check out the CDC’s vaccine locator tool. Some places may require you to make an appointment ahead of time, while others offer walk-in services.

If you’ve received any previous COVID-19 vaccines, you should bring your COVID-19 vaccination card with you. If you can’t find it, that’s OK. There will be an electronic record.

If you need proof of vaccination, your state health department can provide you with an electronic or paper copy of your official vaccination record.

The day of your shot

Make sure to wear something loose that will allow the technician to easily access your upper arm. Vaccines are sometimes given in private rooms or behind screens, but they may also be given in full public view. Therefore, you’ll want to stay fully clothed during the process.

Let the technician know which is your dominant arm. Since pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site are common side effects, you may prefer to get the injection in your non-dominant arm.

Mask mandates change constantly. No matter the mandate, though, it’s a good idea to wear a mask when you go for your vaccination.

Once you’ve been vaccinated, remain at the vaccination site for 15 minutes. This is to ensure you receive medical attention if you experience an allergic or adverse reaction. Even though these occurrences are rare, this precaution is important for safeguarding your health.

Side effects are common after COVID-19 vaccinations. But you may not have any side effects, but this doesn’t mean the vaccine didn’t work.

Common side effects that may occur within hours or days of getting the shot include:

  • pain, swelling, and redness at the injection site
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • fever
  • chills
  • muscle pain
  • nausea

Vaccine side effects may be more intense for some people after getting the second shot of a two-dose vaccine. Booster shot side effects are similar to those from the two-dose or single-dose primary shot.

To reduce common side effects, try out these tips:

1. Avoid strenuous activity

Don’t schedule any grueling activities or exercise for a day or two after your vaccination. You don’t know how you’ll feel, and you may wish to rest or relax.

2. Ice your arm

The CDC recommends using a cool washcloth on the injection site. This helps reduce swelling and alleviate pain. You may also want to use an ice pack, although you shouldn’t apply this directly to the skin. You can wrap the ice in a clean cloth or paper towel.

3. Keep it moving

The CDC also suggests moving and exercising the arm you got your vaccine in. Using your arm as much as you can may help reduce pain and swelling.

4. Take an OTC pain reliever

Talk with your doctor or healthcare professional about whether it’s safe for you to use over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin).

When it’s safe to do so, the CDC says that people over the age of 18 can use OTC pain relievers to reduce discomfort in the arm and treat vaccine side effects like muscle pain and headaches. These medications also help lower fevers.

Always talk with your child’s doctor before giving them any new medications.

5. Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water and other fluids to avoid dehydration from fever. Alcohol and caffeinated beverages like coffee can contribute to dehydration, so avoid those until you’re feeling better.

6. Get plenty of rest

Get plenty of sleep, especially if you feel achy or sick. If you don’t want to sleep, simply relax and let your body rest while the vaccine charges up your immune system.

This is a great time to catch up on the bestseller that’s been gathering dust on your nightstand.

7. Log your symptoms

If you choose to, you can log your symptoms (or your child’s) and report them to the CDC. This helps the CDC monitor vaccine side effects in real-time. To report your symptoms sign up for V-safe on your smartphone.

8. Continue to take precautions

It takes about 2 weeks for your vaccine to become fully effective. You won’t be fully protected during this time and can still catch and pass along the COVID-19 virus.

You should try to avoid large indoor gatherings and continue to follow your state’s masking guidelines until you’re fully vaccinated and boosted.

9. Share your story

Encourage others to get vaccinated by sharing your experience. This is one of the best ways you can contribute to the fight against COVID-19. And it will help make your community a safer and healthier place to live.

If you have side effects that don’t improve after a few days, you should call your doctor.

According to the CDC, adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine are rare, but they can occur in the weeks following your vaccination. They include:

Other research has suggested tinnitus, which is a ringing in the ears, may be associated with the COVID-19 vaccine.

If you have any of these symptoms, seek emergency medical care:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • erratic or irregular heart rate
  • fluid buildup that causes swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet
  • fainting

Here are some questions people often ask about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Is it normal to feel sick after the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. Fever, chills, and muscle aches are common after vaccination. They generally don’t last longer than a day or two.

What should I do if I test positive after the COVID-19 vaccine?

If you think you may have COVID-19, get tested as soon as possible. You can use an at-home test or go to a testing center.

It’s still possible to get COVID-19 after you’re fully vaccinated. Testing is important because symptoms tend to be milder after you’re vaccinated. And some people have no symptoms at all.

If you test positive, isolate yourself until you test negative, so you don’t spread the virus to others. If you do have symptoms, you can contact your doctor about prescription medications that may help you get better quicker.

Can I take pain medication after the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, the CDC says adults can take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever to treat post-vaccine discomfort, as long as it is safe for them to do so.

Talk with your doctor about OTC pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin), and acetaminophen (Tylenol) to find out which ones are safe for you.

Can I exercise after the COVID-19 vaccine?

It’s a good idea to gently move and exercise the arm where you got the injection. If you have no side effects and feel fine, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy other forms of exercise, provided you remain hydrated.

If you have a fever, muscle aches, or simply don’t feel up to it, avoid strenuous exercise for a day or two.

The COVID-19 vaccine has overwhelmingly been shown to be safe and effective in most people. But mild, transient side effects are common.

You may be able to lessen or avoid side effects by using strategies such as remaining hydrated, icing your arm, and resting.