Author: Charles Frank

Drinking Alcohol with COVID-19: Tips for Use, Safety, Risks

alcohol and covid

You may have pain, redness, or swelling on your arm near where you received the COVID-19 booster or vaccine. You may mistake other possible side effects for hangover symptoms if you drink alcohol after getting a booster or vaccine. As of August 2023, there’s no guidance on drinking alcohol before getting a COVID-19 booster or vaccine.

In general, the CDC advises against using over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like Advil (ibuprofen), aspirin, or Tylenol (acetaminophen) before vaccination, including COVID-19 and flu vaccines. It’s unclear whether those pain relievers affect the efficacy of vaccines. “If they’ve signed up for the CDC’s V-Safe After Vaccination Health Checker, they might report those hangover symptoms as side effects and even tell other people about them, which could put people off getting the vaccine,” said Dr. Adalja. Still, you may consider avoiding alcohol before getting a booster or vaccine. Drinking alcohol may cause fatigue, headache, and nausea, which may worsen possible side effects of the booster or vaccine. Some evidence suggests that alcohol may damage your immune function, making it harder for your body to fight infection and raising the risk of complications.

More research is needed to understand its causes and treatment options. In the meantime, healthcare providers should take alcohol intolerance into account when evaluating and treating post-COVID symptoms. Some people describe feeling sick after consuming only a small amount of alcohol, while others report experiencing hangover-like symptoms that seem disproportionate to their alcohol intake. This needs to be complemented by communicating with the public about the risks of alcohol consumption and maintaining and strengthening alcohol and drug treatment services. While hand sanitizers containing 60-95% ethyl alcohol can help destroy the coronavirus on surfaces, drinking alcohol offers no protection from the virus. However, if you’re physically dependent on alcohol or drink heavily, stopping drinking without medical supervision may be dangerous.

That can mean that someone who normally has one or two drinks a day may start drinking three more regularly. Going “cold turkey” when you have a physical dependence on alcohol can be dangerous. Alcohol can cause digestive upset, difficulty sleeping, trouble with concentration, and other unpleasant side effects that may worsen your symptoms. If you don’t have a physical dependency on alcohol, and you drink lightly or moderately, consider stopping while you have COVID-19.

And if those cells aren’t functioning properly, SARS-CoV-2 virus particles could have easier access to the lungs. Due to the high transmission rates of community spread of COVID-19, there is no risk-free way to gather socially at this time. A large percentage of infections are transmitted through asymptomatic spread, by those infected with COVID-19 who display no symptoms. Consult a healthcare professional about whether you can drink alcohol while using these medications. It’s also worth noting that the effects of alcohol — and a hangover — may be particularly unpleasant if you also have COVID-19 symptoms. If you’re ready to enter treatment and stop drinking, you’ll likely have to wait until your COVID-19 infection is no longer transmissible before you enter a detox program.

Seek medical attention right away if you have an allergic reaction after receiving a booster or vaccine. As of August 2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for people who’ve been newly vaccinated do not mention alcohol. Likewise, the Food and Drug Administration vaccination fact sheets for the Moderna, Novavax, or Pfizer vaccines do not make any reference to alcohol. Although the underlying mechanisms aren’t fully understood, the symptom may be linked to the broader condition of long COVID and share similarities with conditions like myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). While not widely recognized as a symptom of long COVID due to limited research, alcohol intolerance has been reported by some individuals. Dr. Fiellin also notes that alcohol can slow the function of cells (responsible for clearing pathogens from the lungs) that line the respiratory tract.

How does drinking alcohol affect the body when you have long COVID?

If you’re ready to seek treatment, do so after your infection has cleared. Instead, get plenty of rest and stay hydrated while recovering from vaccination. Seek medical attention right away if you develop adverse side effects within four hours of receiving a booster or vaccine. Although the CDC advises against using those pain relievers before getting a booster or vaccine, you may continue to use pain relievers if you regularly take them for other reasons. You may take OTC pain relievers to reduce side effects after getting a booster or vaccine.

  1. Alcohol is responsible for a total of three million deaths worldwide, one third of which occur in the WHO European Region.
  2. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.
  3. Research on the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines did not ask trial participants to avoid alcohol.
  4. If you don’t have a physical dependency on alcohol, and you drink lightly or moderately, consider stopping while you have COVID-19.
  5. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) have issued communications warning people to avoid excessive drinking, saying it may increase COVID-19 susceptibility and severity.

Alcohol can also weaken your immune system and contribute to risk-taking behavior (like not wearing a mask) that could increase your chances of contracting the virus. This connection could provide insights into how long COVID might contribute to alcohol intolerance. But after her infection, she found herself unable to tolerate even small amounts of alcohol, experiencing unpleasant sensations like lightheadedness, sluggishness, and queasiness after just a few sips. Women, Dr. Fiellin notes, metabolize alcohol less efficiently than men, meaning they have higher concentrations of it in their blood when they drink the same amount. Here we present such data as are available on per capita alcohol sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are a healthcare provider, learn how to help patients or clients who need help with an alcohol problem during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Are you more likely to develop long COVID if you drink alcohol during an active infection?

Consult a healthcare provider if you have questions about COVID-19 boosters and vaccines, including what ones to receive and when. While there are no official guidelines, some experts advise against drinking right after getting vaccinated. One theory suggests that the virus causing COVID-19 acts as a severe stressor, possibly affecting a part of the brain called the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN). This could make the PVN extra sensitive to life’s stresses, causing fatigue and relapses similar to ME/CFS.

alcohol and covid

Many people pick up a drink as a way to relieve stress and don’t realize that those initial, relaxing effects are short-lived and that alcohol actually stimulates the body’s stress response, says Sinha. For the week ending May 2, total alcohol sales in the U.S. were up by more than 32% compared to the same week one year ago. As part of its public health response to COVID-19, WHO has worked with partners to develop guidance, which addresses myths and provides guidance during the pandemic. Anecdotally, some people with long COVID develop an alcohol intolerance. While one preprint study suggests that alcohol intolerance is a common symptom of long COVID, there’s very little research on the topic. Because drinking alcohol and being hungover can lead to digestive upset, headaches, mood changes, and difficulty thinking clearly — all symptoms of long COVID — it may worsen these symptoms.

How Has Drinking Behavior Changed During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Plus, it may seem that alcohol helps you fall asleep more easily, but it actually leads to more interrupted sleep. “You may wake up a few hours later as the effect of the alcohol wears off,” Dr. Fiellin says. This review looks at alcohol-related policies during the COVID-19 pandemic across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This webpage provides guidance about no-cost extensions, with or without funds, to NIH Pathway to Independence Awards (K99/R00) and Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Fellowships.

Restricting alcohol access during the COVID-19 pandemic

Treatment for long COVID, including symptoms like alcohol intolerance, typically involves a multidisciplinary approach aimed at managing specific symptoms and improving overall well-being. There’s growing evidence that it may be a unique symptom of long COVID, particularly the post-viral fatigue syndrome (PVFS) type. NIAAA Director, Dr. George Koob, discusses what we know about how alcohol affects our immune and stress systems, along with issues related to treatment access during the pandemic. No research suggests that you’ll develop long COVID if you drink alcohol while you have a COVID-19 infection. Some research suggests that alcohol intolerance is common for people with long COVID. Although rare, some people may have an allergic reaction to a booster or vaccine.

Research has found that drinking alcohol every day may increase the risk of severe side effects from the flu vaccine, so it may be best to avoid alcohol for a few days. Read on to learn about other precautions to take after getting vaccinated. No official guidelines exist on drinking alcohol after getting a COVID-19 booster or vaccine. Fatigue, headache, and nausea from drinking alcohol may mimic or worsen the side effects of vaccines.

While hand sanitizer containing alcohol may kill the virus on surfaces, drinking alcohol doesn’t cure or prevent a COVID-19 infection. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it’s possible that some data have changed since publication. While there are many factors regarding alcohol intake and its impact on the body, more studies are needed to know the full effects of alcohol on the immune system.

Beyond that, alcohol consumption is already a major public health problem in the U.S., the NIAAA says. A 2021 study found that people who drink at least once a week are more likely to develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) during COVID-19 hospitalization. This may be because alcohol use can weaken your immune system, making you more prone to infectious diseases. Research has found that alcohol does not affect the efficacy of the flu vaccine.