From an immunity-boosting diet to ample hydration, here is what you need to do to negate the possible side effects of a Covid-19 vaccination
By now, close to 35% of Singapore’s population would have at least had their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination. In this time, we have learnt a few things about the possible side effects post-jab. Regardless of which brand of vaccine you take, you may experience anything from fevers to nausea, fatigue and aches — or nothing at all.
Interestingly, a key finding from a clinical trial revealed that older adults have fewer side effects from the Covid-19 vaccine compared to the younger population. The likely reason for this is due to a decline in immune response that comes with age. Still, diminished reaction does not mean that the body is in building protection against Covid-19, says Dr Ben Ng, an endocrinologist from Arden Endocrinology Specialist Clinic.
While Covid-19 vaccines are considered highly effective, there is a sliver of chance that fully-vaccinated individuals may catch it again, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is not to say that we should just forget about getting jabbed altogether — what a vaccination does is it significantly reduces your chances of getting infected or lessens the side effects when you do contract it. There is also a plus side: Getting vaccinated is your passport to hassle-free travelling once the borders open up, plus it is free for now.
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Although there is no proven study to show that proper nutrition will help to counter the after effects of a Covid-19 vaccination, it is still useful to consume a menu of immunity builders to best support your body’s needs, both before and after you have the jab. “It is always advisable to maintain good nutrition and hydration, especially during this pandemic period and in preparation to getting a vaccination,” says Rddhi Naidu, a senior clinical dietitian at Arden Metabolic Centre.
Here, Ng and Rddhi suggest essential best practices to help us prepare for our impending vaccinations.
It is extremely important that you keep yourself hydrated in the days leading to and after your injection, says Dr Ng. By consuming two to three litres of fluids daily, you may be able to overcome possible headaches, fevers and nausea much faster. It is also best to avoid soft drinks or sweetened beverages during this time but if you really need more kick to your water, you can flavour it with lemon slices, mint leaves, cinnamon sticks or even berries. And if you crave for a sweet concoction, try adding Stevia which is a plant-based sweetener, suggests Rddhi.
No alcohol and cigarettes
It goes without saying that even for a regular person under normal circumstances, cigarettes and alcohol are bad for you as they suppress the immunity and weaken the body’s ability to fight infections, thereby increasing the risk of complications. The CDC recommends avoiding alcohol a day before and after the vaccine, however it wouldn’t hurt to avoid drinking alcohol for a couple of days pre- and post-vaccination.
Excessive alcohol and caffeine intake can also lead to dehydration and worsen the impact of common side-effects that some may experience post-vaccination such as fatigue, headache, fever and pain, warns Rddhi. So, stick to a maximum of two cups of coffee or tea, or choose decaffeinated options like flower tea.
Swap out processed foods
It is never too late to start eating healthier, even if it is right before your jab. Rddhi says you may start a couple of days before your vaccination, especially focusing on good fats and important nutrients such as vitamin C and increased fibre intake from fresh fruits and vegetables as they will help you feel more energetic.
Recent research has also shown that following an anti-inflammatory diet can also help you boost your immune system. “Try to include foods with healthy fats such as avocado, nuts, salmon and flaxseed powder. Switch to more wholesome foods like wholegrains, fruits and vegetables which are high in fibre and nutrients, and reduce your intake of processed foods which are high in additives, sodium and calories,” she says.
For breakfast, she recommends overnight oats, whole grain cereals with low fat milk, whole grain toast with avocados, eggs or low-fat cheese or even a quick protein shake. For lunch and dinner, try to include half a plate of vegetables, a quarter plate of high fibre carbohydrates such as brown rice, pasta, quinoa or even some sweet potato, and healthier protein options like tofu, chicken breast, fish like salmon, lean meat — filling the other quarter of your plate.
If you are eating out, look for healthier cooking methods, order more vegetables wherever possible, and avoid cream or coconut milk-based dishes, fried items and sweet drinks.
Continue your current medication
If you are taking meds for underlying medical conditions, you are advised to continue taking them before you get vaccinated. Try to refrain from taking anti-allergy antihistamines before a vaccination as it is not known if these might compromise the efficacy of the vaccine. Ng says that it is still alright to take one or two tablets of paracetamol every six hours to quash nausea and low-grade fevers. If all else fails, do contact your medical practitioner for advice.
Not on an empty stomach
Though rare, nausea and light-headedness has been reported as potential side effects following the vaccine. Some people do recommend eating before the vaccination to reduce the risk of these symptoms, says Ng. A light snack or meal can also regulate your blood glucose levels better which may prevent you from having dizzy spells and feeling tired after the whole procedure. Some healthy snack options are a handful of natural nuts, low-fat yoghurt with fruits, protein-based bars, hummus with vegetable sticks, peanut butter wholegrain toast or tuna with whole grain crackers, adds Rddhi.
Lots of rest
Even on a normal day, plenty of rest and good quality sleep helps one to feel better and recover from illness faster. Inadequate sleep or stress has been shown to reduce overall immunity, says Ng. Experts recommend that healthy adults get between seven to nine hours of sleep, while those over 65 should clock in between seven to eight hours of shut eye each night.