Let’s say you come down with COVID-19. You’re feeling miserable. You’re achy, you’re coughing, and to make matters worse, now you have a fever. If you’re at risk of a severe case, or if you’re having trouble breathing, the experts say you should seek medical attention. But if you’re just managing things at home, should you take Advil to bring down your temperature?
The advantages of “riding out” a fever instead of taking painkillers such as ibuprofen, the active ingredient in Advil, are the subject of a long-standing debate among medical professionals. Some doctors believe fever is beneficial to the body’s natural immune response; others aren’t so sure, and instead say that patients should just focus on making themselves comfortable.
That debate was rekindled when Oliver Verán, the French health minister, tweeted on Saturday that ibuprofen could worsen COVID-19. “The taking of anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, cortisone …) could be a factor in aggravating the infection,” he wrote. “In case of fever, take paracetamol. If you are already taking anti-inflammatory drugs, or if you are in doubt, ask your doctor’s advice.”
His tweet went viral, prompting many to wonder whether they should, in fact, avoid ibuprofen if they come down with COVID-19. The entire episode exemplifies the messy nature of medicine, and how treatments for the same disease can vary dramatically from doctor to doctor and patient to patient. As people try to do whatever they can to avoid spreading the coronavirus, the lack of a consensus only adds stress to an already nerve-racking time.