What should you take if you have coronavirus symptoms? There is some debate

Updated: Mar. 30, 2020 at 9:36 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - If you start to show signs of the coronavirus, you can often deal with your symptoms with common over-the-counter medications. But which one’s should you take, and which ones should you avoid?

“There is a lot of speculation and very little science to back up the speculation,” Dr. Jon Klein from the UofL School of Medicine told WAVE 3 News.

The speculation is that one over the counter medication is better than the other to treat COVID-19 symptoms: acetaminophen like Tylenol versus ibuprofen like Advil. They both treat fevers.

“What the difference between the two is that ibuprofen has more of an anti-inflammatory effect. It effects the cells that mount an inflammatory response and more efficiently than acetaminophen,” Dr. Klein said. “So our body’s defense mechanism, which help us fight off infections, are also what cause our fevers. Ibuprofen is a little better at controlling that. The speculation is that we are limiting our defense mechanism by taking ibuprofen in ways that we won’t by taking acetaminophen.”

Dr. Klein has been following this debate.

This all came about after the French Minister of Health tweeted to avoid anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen because they might worsen a COVID-19 infection.

“There is this old saying in science that correlation doesn’t mean causation,” Dr. Klein said. “Just because there is a correlation with taking ibuprofen doesn’t mean ibuprofen causes the problem.”

A lot of researchers agree, saying we just don't have enough data right now to paint that full picture.

The World Health Organization told NBC news in Mid March: “WHO is aware of concerns on the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (i.e., ibuprofen) for the treatment of fever for people with COVID-19. WHO is gathering further evidence on this issue before making a formal recommendation, but after a rapid review of the literature, is not aware of published clinical or population-based data on this topic.”

If you are concerned, experts say you can take acetaminophen, and Dr. Klein agrees.

“It’s just an abundance of caution like so many things we are doing right now that causes us to say, if you have acetaminophen, take that.”

There is no specific medicine to prevent or treat the coronavirus.

There is so much research being done around the world about the disease, and Dr. Klein said in his 30 plus years in medicine, he’s never seen science move so quickly.

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