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Why is Rubbing the Site of COVID-19 Injection a Bad Idea?

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Every other day we are learning new things about COVID-19 and the vaccines that are being administered to immunize people against the virus. Many myths, misconceptions and rumours have done the rounds and scientists and responsible media houses have done their best to debunk them and urge the general public to get the two shots of vaccine as soon as they can. Similarly, experts also want people to be more aware of the dos and don’ts after vaccination so that nothing affects the efficacy of the vaccine or the health of the person being vaccinated.

In the context of vaccination tips, it is important for people to know that rubbing the site of the COVID-19 vaccine is to be avoided. Let us find out why.

What Causes Pain at the Injection Site?

Administering any kind of vaccine is guaranteed to trigger some arm soreness. COVID-19 vaccines are no exception. Pain at the injection site usually lasts for 2-10 days. But some people experience intense pain and discomfort that makes it difficult to move the arm and may need to take special care of their arm.

Pain at the injection site is an expected reaction by the body to the vaccine. When the vaccine is injected into your arm, your body perceives the needle prick to be an injury. To your body, it is no different than other injuries like a cut. Your immune response immediately springs into action and your body sends immunity cells to the vaccine site. The vaccine itself triggers an immune response and may cause inflammation and stiffness as side effects at the injection site. Soon after the vaccination, your immunity starts producing antibodies that can destroy the viruses if they enter your system in the future. Arm soreness is a good sign because it is an evidence that immunity is starting to respond to the vaccine. 

Did you know?

  • Rubbing the injection site can also increase the risk of infection. source: PMC
  • Rubbing the injection site can cause the vaccine to spread to surrounding tissues, potentially reducing its effectiveness. source: PMC
  • The injection site may be sore or tender after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, but rubbing it can worsen the discomfort. source: PMC
  • It is important to avoid touching or rubbing the injection site to prevent any adverse reactions. source: PMC
  • Rubbing the injection site can lead to the formation of a hematoma or blood clot. source: PMC

But Why You Must Not Rub the Site of the Injection?

You may feel an urge to rub the area immediately after the injection of the vaccine. But it has been advised that you should not rub the injection site after receiving the COVID vaccine. It’s true that rubbing or gently massaging can bring temporary relief from the soreness and stiffness. But actually, rubbing can cause more harm than good. 

Despite experiencing arm soreness, you have to resist the temptation to massage the injection site. The COVID-19 vaccine is administered through an intramuscular route. The liquid vaccine that is injected this way can back up through subcutaneous tissue lying in the deep layers of your skin when you rub the site. This will reduce the efficacy of the vaccine. Rubbing, massaging or pitching should definitely be avoided in the first few hours after the vaccination because that is when your immunity is responding to the vaccine and rubbing could interfere with that by triggering counter-absorption. 

So What Can You Do to Deal with Pain at the Injection Site?

To counter arm soreness, there are a few home remedies you can try. The most effective way to reduce the pain and discomfort is a cold compress. If you have an ice pack you can use that or you can wrap a few cubes of ice in a towel and gently dab the injection site with the ice pack. 

You can take a bath in Epsom salt water to ease your arm soreness. A few gentle arm exercises like rotating the arm, overhead press, deltoid raises can help cope with the pain.

Some over-the-counter pain medications such as paracetamol can be very effective against arm soreness.

Does this Advice Apply to Other Vaccines as Well?

Most vaccines are administered the same way as the COVID-19 vaccines. And hence it is best to avoid rubbing your arm after a vaccine. But you can always ask your physician and get more clarity on this.

It’s important to follow the do’s and don’ts after vaccination to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccines yield the desired results. Even after being fully vaccinated continue following the COVID-19 protocol such as wearing masks, sanitizing your hands and disinfecting everything after you come home.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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