Have you seen the news headlines that ibuprofen should not be taken by those who potentially have Coronavirus? If you are like me, this headline stopped me in my tracks as ibuprofen is my “go to” medication for fever for not only my children and me, but I also recommend it often to patients. So what is the deal with ibuprofen and do you need to be worried?
The concern about ibuprofen use with Coronavirus infection came after a commentary letter was published in The Lancet, which is a medical journal. Of note, commentary letters are just that, commentary by a physician or group on a situation or health issue. These are not large scientific or controlled studies (which are the kind of studies doctors really like to make their clinical decisions on). The letter stated that ibuprofen might raise the levels of a certain enzyme in the body (known as ACE2 for short) which could increase the risk and possibly the severity of Coronavirus infection.
This observation, again without any scientific study backing up the claims in regards to ibuprofen and Coronavirus, spread like wildfire and within days the health minister in France was recommending against the use of ibuprofen. Cue further worry and then confusion when the World Health Organization (WHO) also recommended against the use of ibuprofen, but then quickly recanted that statement by March 19. The WHO now states, “Based on current available information, the WHO does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen.”
Confused? Yes, I think everyone is! The bottom line here is that scientists are working to try and learn a lot about Coronavirus…we want to know how it spreads, how long it lasts in the environment, why are some people getting more ill with the virus, is there a treatment, and are things that should be avoided like ibuprofen or other over the counter remedies. All of these questions will hopefully be answered in the coming months to years (yes, it will likely take years to truly unfold and understand this virus). For now, I think there is no need to be scared of ibuprofen if this is a medication that you can typically safely take, but know there are other options for fever as well. You could always start with acetaminophen and if your symptoms do not improve, then keep ibuprofen as your back up. As always, you should discuss any over the counter medication with your doctor to understand if it could affect any underlying medical conditions.