Metro Weekly

Why health experts recommend Tylenol to treat symptoms of COVID-19

Local physician says Tylenol is preferred due to concerns over the effect of NSAIDs like ibuprofen on liver and kidneys

Tylenol tablets – Photo: Deborah Austin, via Wikimedia.

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Ever since COVID-19-related illnesses began spreading globally, there’s been a host of conflicting information about how to treat the symptoms of the disease, such as cough and high fever.

The health minister of France, Olivier Véran, previously issued a warning that people suffering from the effects of the virus should avoid ibuprofen and aspirin, saying that such drugs — known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)– only worsened symptoms of COVID-related illnesses.

Instead, Véran said, people should take acetaminophen — known in Europe as paracetamol — or Tylenol, to help bring down the several-day long high fevers that have come to characterize the disease. He warned that some patients, particularly those with underlying health problems, should not use NSAIDs due to potential adverse effects, reports USA Today.

Following Véran’s warning, a host of stories, offering conflicting information about the effects of ibuprofen on COVID-19, began to abound, with one professor telling the BBC that the drug has been linked to the worsening of respiratory infections, and others telling The New York Times that there is no evidence for such concern.

So, where does the truth lie? According to most infectious disease experts, there’s no good scientific evidence to support Véran’s claims. This poses another question: then why is Tylenol the preferred regimen among so many health providers?

Photo: Katy Warner, via Wikimedia.

“The recommendation is that if someone has fever or muscle aches or any other symptoms related to COVID disease, that they take acetaminophen to decrease their fever and muscle aches,” says Dr. Timothy Price, a D.C.-based openly gay doctor who treats significant numbers of patients who belong to the LGBTQ community.

“The primary reason [for prescribing Tylenol] is that anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen, Advil, or Aleve, have been shown in some studies to worsen kidney function in people who have COVID-disease,” notes Price. “So the recommendation has been not to use those anti-inflammatories unless absolutely necessary.”

Price is careful to note that most people who have COVID-related illnesses, especially in a mild of moderate form, do not develop diseases affecting major organs like the liver or kidneys.

“It’s not your average person sick at home that we’re concerned about,” he says, “However, people who have been very sick, who have needed to be hospitalized, some of those people will have problems with their liver and kidneys, and that’s the people that are the most concerning.”

As a precaution, Tylenol is the preferred treatment, though some healthier people may opt for anti-inflammatories if nothing else is available. He recommends consulting one’s personal physician for additional guidance, and says that methods like cool baths or cold towels, placed in the fridge and placed on the body, can also be used to provide suffering people relief while helping bring down fevers.

People who were regularly taking anti-inflammatory drugs on a regular basis to treat other health conditions, “should not prophylactically stop taking medications,” Price warns, and should consult with a physician about what to do if they become infected with COVID-19.

As for the availability of medications like Tylenol, Price says there is no reason for people with no serious underlying health conditions to panic and begin hoarding medications or clearing out the shelves in your local pharmacies.

“The average person only has symptoms that last for about 14 days,” he says. “So you do not need Tylenol doses that exceed that time period.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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