Tell me about your severe and/or extended COVID vaccine reactions.
April 29, 2021 11:38 AM   Subscribe

I got my second Pfizer vaccine on Saturday 4/24, and now on Thursday, I'm still suffering side effects and haven't worked a full day all week. Doctors assure me that this unusual but still within the realm of normal, but it would help me to hear from others who had a similar experience.

I'm 40, female, and have no major health conditions. That said, I tend to be QUITE sensitive to medications, so I wasn't overly surprised when I had some pretty strong side effects after my second vaccine.

However, the intensity and duration of my symptoms are now outpacing anything experienced by my family, friends, and co-workers. I was concerned enough that I checked in with a doctor at my clinic yesterday, as well as a close friend who is an MD and also had a strong reaction to the 2nd shot. As long as I don't develop a new fever or still feel like this by next week, I'm supposed to just wait it out and not worry.

Timeline of side effects:
- Saturday 4/24: got my shot at 4:00 pm, felt fine the rest of the day.
- Sunday 4/25: felt like hot garbage. Fever got up to 101.7 before I finally took Tylenol, and was still around 100 when medicated. Terrible body aches and chills.
- Monday 4/26: fever stayed between 99 and 100, but still had aches and chills. Took the whole day off from work.
- Tuesday 4/27: no fever, but still achy, tired, and a bit foggy. Worked a half day to ease myself back in, and fully expected to work all day on Wednesday.
- Wednesday 4/28: woke up with a SHOCKINGLY bad headache and extreme fatigue. I never get headaches, so this was unusual. Managed to work 3 or 4 hours, but only because I had meetings that were hard to skip. In the late afternoon, woke up from a nap with probably the worst headache I've ever had. (I wonder if I had my very first migraine? Throbbing on one side of my head, neck pain, my eyes hurt all day.) Tylenol and Ibuprofen only helped a little; an ice pack on my forehead helped a LOT.
- Thursday 4/29: Definitely better than yesterday, but I still have a mild version of that headache. I'm taking the full day off to try and kick this.

I'm not concerned that the vaccine has hurt me in any way, but it's hard not to be a teeny bit anxious or at least dismayed when everyone around you sails through this experience and you're looking at a full work-week of impact! It would help me to hear about the following:

1) Do you have your own stories about unusual vaccine reactions, either in intensity or duration?
2) Were there things that helped you to manage the symptoms or at least feel mentally more at peace with them during your experience?
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack to Health & Fitness (36 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
1) I felt a little sick after my first shot. What helped me was getting a covid test - I thought I had got covid! Terrible luck! luckily, it came back negative. It was probably allergies after all.
posted by bbqturtle at 11:43 AM on April 29


My wife had a week of nausea after the Pfizer, probably complicated by allergies/post-nasal drip. Not fun, and that was just her first shot.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:49 AM on April 29


I did not get AS sick as you have been, but I felt pretty consistently like hammered shit for nearly the entire waiting period after my first shot (Moderna), to the point that it was obvious when I was feeling better because I felt so much better so abruptly.

I'm two weeks out from my second jab tomorrow and my stomach is only just returning to something like normal, but this round has been nothing like the first one with one day being a headache day, one day crushing waves of fatigue, one day spiking little tiny fevers, one day unable to get warm, and just terrible stomach complaints every day all day and night.

But I am definitely hearing a LOT of people (many of whom seemed to think "side effects" meant something that happened 2 hours after the shot so this came as such a shock to them after declaring themselves No Problems!! the afternoon of their first shot) generally feeling ass-kicked for 4ish days afterwards. All my second-round bad symptoms (again with the little fevers and fatigue mostly) were 18-72 hours afterwards, but far less pervasive than the first time.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:50 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]


I had your Saturday/Sunday experience (totally flattened the day after my 2nd shot, had the sweats, slept a lot, maybe a tiny hallucination in there somewhere???) but Monday was able to function. This was at the end of March. Tired through that week but otherwise okay.

Except. I had a totally weird period this past while. It was 10 days late - long enough to pee on a goddamn stick to make sure I'm not pregnant - and lasted 32+ days when it finally hit. I'm exploring why this may be with the help of my doctor, but I'm not prepared to rule out "part of a general reaction to the 2nd shot" as a cause.

(Moderna vaccine)
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:52 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I'm only 8 days past my first dose of Moderna, and I had Covid in December. I've had a lot of lingering symptoms since having Covid, and I had about three weeks of headache, body aches, and fever when I first came down sick.

I got my shot in the late afternoon on Wed 4/21, and like you, felt fine the rest of the day. The next morning, ugh. Fatigue hit me HARD. Didn't get the headache, but the body aches were back with a vengeance, plus a low-grade fever. Same thing Friday. Saturday, was able to get up and move around, but very low energy, and it was all I could do to keep my eyes open. Sunday, same. Monday, a little better in the early part of the day, and then by mid-afternoon, I was asleep, and pretty much slept all day Tuesday, too. Yesterday, finally felt a bit more human, and my arm FINALLY stopping hurting. Oh, yeah, I hadn't even mentioned it was killing me.

In comparison, my 18 & 21 year old kiddos got their shots on 4/25. The one who was definitely totally exposed by asymptomatic to Covid in December had nothing but a tender arm for a day. The one who came down sick in December had a sorer arm, but it was better by yesterday, though she has been sleeping a bit more. (Of course, that one will sleep as much as she can get away with anyway...)

Advice? I'm guessing you hadn't caught Covid prior to this. If that's the case, my guess is, that would have been worse, based on your vaccine reaction. Keep that in your mind - that it could have been worse. I'm totally expecting my reaction to the second shot to be worse than the first, and I'm ok with that. It's better than coming down sick with Covid again, because I'm pretty sure I'd end up in the hospital. I came a bit too close to it in December as it was.

Piggyback the Tylenol & ibuprofen so one is always in your system when the other is wearing off. Drink plenty of water even when you don't want it. Allow yourself to sleep as much as possible. If you're asleep, your body can use all of the energy available to do the job it needs to. I've found I can't even entertain myself with reading (normally my sick go-to) when in fatigue mode; I just can't focus, and it's almost impossible to keep my eyes open anyway.
posted by stormyteal at 11:55 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I had a similar experience two weeks ago. For my first shot (Pfizer), I had no side effects at all. Not even a sore arm.

Got second shot on a Friday. That day I was actually feeling totally normal and even extra productive. Second day, I was super tired, little achy, and my arm was sore. Third and fourth days, I had a terrible headache, fatigue, slight fever, and slight brain fog. I was still trying to work during that time, so I used Advil and just rode it out. With the Advil, I just felt blah and had a hard time focusing. Finally after about 5-6 days, all my symptoms lifted and I was back to normal.

I heard that 6-7 days of side effects is not uncommon. I've also read that it may be more common for women. BTW, I'm a 50yo women with no history of issues with vaccines.
posted by jraz at 11:55 AM on April 29 [2 favorites]


After my first Pfizer vaxx I had multi-day terrible lymph node inflammation in the same arm as I got the shot. It lasted for several days and was the kind of pain that interrupted my sleep and impeded some function. My armpit was very sad and fighting it's own little battle there.

Mid-40's female with an autoimmune condition who probably had mild COVID back in April 2020. They'd said expect arm pain but this was pretty severe. They're now saying it's more typical for former COVID patients to have this symptom so - checks out.

I had nothing like that after vaxx 2 fwiw. Just the standard 1 day later tiredness and ickiness. Took a long nap and the second day after the 2nd vaxx - was fine.
posted by rdnnyc at 11:56 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]


My gf slept for 12+ hours/day for 3 days after her 2nd shot.
posted by AugustWest at 11:56 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]


> After my first Pfizer vaxx I had multi-day terrible lymph node inflammation in the same arm as I got the shot. It lasted for several days and was the kind of pain that interrupted my sleep and impeded some function. My armpit was very sad and fighting it's own little battle there.

Same exact thing happened to me (except moderna), the swollen armpit lymph nodes made it hard for me to raise that arm, and it was a contstant throbbing pain for days. I was just so happy to have finally gotten the vaccine - that I have an end date for most social distancing - that the pain was almost a happy reminder? Sure, it throbbed angrily and I complained, but it also gave me a sliver of hope that things will be over soon. I'm not sure if that mentality will help you, but it certainly helped me!
posted by Behemoth, in no. 302-bis, with the Browning at 12:08 PM on April 29 [1 favorite]


24 hours after my second shot of Pfizer, I had 36 hours of flu symptoms, followed by 6 more days of heavy fatigue. Chalked it up to the energy required to build those sweet sweet antibodies. (No prior COVID but two quirky but well managed health issues.)
posted by blue suede stockings at 12:29 PM on April 29 [1 favorite]


Best answer: For me, I had a shot on Sunday. Monday was fine, and Tuesday I literally slept through the entire day. I was phenomenally groggy the next day. On two non-consecutive days following, I had a headache very similar to what you describe -- one-side, throbbing, and feeling as if it was the worst I ever had, migraine-ish.

If your post-vaccine timeline follows mine, you may be fine from this point on, if that helps. As for me, what helped me feel mentally more at peace was a comparative thought -- I'd rather have had those symptoms than COVID, and I felt as if I could count on them leaving more quickly than I could COVID.
posted by metabaroque at 12:38 PM on April 29 [2 favorites]


My wife and I got our second Pfizer shots today.

She's been complaining of unusual fatigue for a week or two, which only now am I connecting with maybe being caused by the first shot. (Duh.)

We'll see what tomorrow brings. I pre-emptively took the day off, and made a pot of cold-pressed coffee; she plans to go to work.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:56 PM on April 29


Best answer: I could have written your post. Mine was Moderna, second shot. On my first shot, I had a shockingly swollen armpit node, but nothing else. I didn't feel right for a full week after the second. I will say that if your symptoms mirror mine, you should feel much better in a couple days from now. Oh, and I'm late 30s and female.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:56 PM on April 29


Best answer: I haven't gotten my second shot but definitely had a friend who had symptoms very similar to what you are describing, just felt draggy with alternatingly bad or not-so-bad headaches, body aches and feeling flu-ish but it lasted 5 or maybe 6 days. Like you he was concerned but they did go away and he is fine now.
posted by jessamyn at 1:04 PM on April 29


Best answer: Also 40 year old female, no major health problems, but sensitive to medications (but never a vaccine reaction). Got the J&J vaccine two and a half weeks ago (before the pause). Still not back to normal. Consulted my GP after a week who sent me to the ER for tests (all normal), back to the GP a week ago and tests are normal. No one really knows but all
signs point to the vaccine being the cause. One of the doctors thought my immune system just completely freaked out.

On the plus side, I’ve plateaued but I’m at about 80-90% now, so I think you’ll get there too. One doctor mentioned that immune systems and female bodies are especially complicated, so who really knows how they exactly work.
posted by umwhat at 1:07 PM on April 29


Male, mid30s. My first Moderna shot gave me about 36 hours of fatigue. My second Moderna shot knocked me on my ass for about a week. Timeline:

Wednesday, 3pm: I get the 2nd shot
Thursday, 1am: Sudden onset of fever, chills, aches. Complete loss of appetite
Thursday, 8pm: Fever and aches start to subside, and I stomach a little food
Friday: Extreme fatigue continues, and I find it impossible to stay awake for more than a few hours
Saturday: moderate fatigue and brain fog. I make it through the day only napping once.
Sunday: mild fatigue. I feel well enough to leave my house for a short errand, although I’m very tired and “foggy” afterward
Monday: mild fatigue and brain fog
Tuesday: mild fatigue, but I do some mild physical exercise at the end of the day and it doesn’t make me feel any worse
Wednesday: Back to feeling normal.

I know most people shake the side effects quickly, but mine gradually receded over several days. Around day 4 or 5 I did what you’re doing and started searching for other people who had side effects lasting this long. It’s not the norm, but, judging from Internet anecdotes, 7+ days of side effects seem to be happening to a handful of people.
posted by kingoftonga86 at 1:10 PM on April 29


Best answer: I treated the post-vaccine crap feelings like I do when I get the flu: sleep with the kitties, drink gatorade, sleep, eat applesauce and crackers, sleep, maybe take a bath, sleep, take zofran to help with the nausea, sleep.

Your immune system is busy. The cause of that (the vaccine, actually getting the flu, another virus, etc) is irrelevant to taking care of yourself, so please take care of yourself however makes you feel better.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 1:14 PM on April 29 [4 favorites]


(Oh! And Lawn Beaver, two of my family members also had strange periods (came a week early when always very regular) after moderna, and they read odd periods aren’t uncommon after the vaccine.)
posted by umwhat at 1:14 PM on April 29 [2 favorites]


I too had my second Pfizer shot at 4pm on a Saturday. I did feel like garbage and had a fever on Sunday. Very tired and had very unrestful sleep. Monday I was recognizably human but just felt kinda blah. Tuesday and Wednesday I was mostly functional but just a little off.
posted by mmascolino at 1:20 PM on April 29 [1 favorite]


Best answer: 38, female, no underlying health conditions, Pfizer.

My symptoms basically mimicked yours. The headaches continued for at least a week. Fatigue for about two weeks.

And my periods were weird as hell from shot #1 on, just FYI (off-cycle, heavier), now seven weeks from my first shot (four from my last shot). In that time I've had three periods (not cool), but it seems like maybe it's leveling out.

I'm kind of a 'the only way out is through' kinda gal, so in the meantime just take care of yourself. If you need rest, rest. Give your body good things, do you what you can.
posted by greta simone at 2:08 PM on April 29 [1 favorite]


My healthy, late 50s male reaction to my first AstraZeneca shot (last Tuesday) was being hit with really severe chills late evening on the day of vaccination, then 3 days of body aches and then lethargy for 5 more days. I have a tendency to get have dizziness when I'm sick and that's kept me from doing much. Still don’t feel 100% today. Might be some allergies in there. Hate to imagine what actual COVID would be like.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:16 PM on April 29


Best answer: I am 46, female, relatively healthy and not very sensitive to medications. I had relatively mild side effects from both doses: fatigue, low-grade fever, body aches. My best friend, 50, AFAB, basically went through what you did. Severe chills and fever for a few days, then a WTF-level headache a few days later. I have also heard from a number of other folks who have had bad headaches several days after their second shot (and, if I recall correctly, another Ask about it a while back). Reactions to the mRNA vaccines seem to be wide and varied.

Hydrate like it's your job and take naps like that's your other job. I basically drank lots of water (sometimes with added electrolytes), broth, and herbal tea for a couple of days and I definitely think the broth + electrolytes helped a lot, as did the napping. So much napping.
posted by bedhead at 2:37 PM on April 29 [2 favorites]


I have atypical migraines - usually without pain or with low pain and plus other visual or verbal symptoms. I had my first full-on migraine with vomiting the day after my first Pfizer dose - ended up in the er because I could not stand up, walk, or talk fully coherently. For 10 days, I had a low grade headache with the typical atypical migraine tension behind my eyes, dizziness, and fatigue.

I actually checked my bag of coffee to see if it was decaf!

Finally, after 10 days, I feel great (meaning back to normal)! And my coffee works!
posted by RoadScholar at 3:17 PM on April 29 [2 favorites]


Best answer: Sounds like you got your answer but I am compelled to share that I am also someone who was knocked on her ass by the second Pfizer shot. I am in "excellent" health according to my doctor. I've never had any reaction to any immunization. About 10 hours after my second shot it was like I had influenza all of a sudden. Intense chills, body aches, and high fever (103). Those symptoms lasted 3.5 days. I treated it like the flu - alternating ibuprofen/acetaminophen, liquids, crashed in bed - and then it ended.

And once I was feeling better I looked at the news and saw that Pfizer CEO said that he anticipates people needing a booster shot at 12 months. I burst into tears.

I haven't had the headaches other people mentioned but then again I don't know that I would notice, given that the stress of the last year has me grinding my teeth!!
posted by stowaway at 4:45 PM on April 29


My experience was similar. I have multiple autoimmune diseases and other health issues, so I can't say I wasn't expecting a stronger reaction than most people I knew were having. But it hit me like a ton of bricks.

After the first shot, I was OK until I got home and crawled into bed. They said to keep the affected arm moving, but the pain and stiffness was so bad I literally couldn't. I couldn't even sleep on that side of my body. I slept in fitful, several-hour doses for about four days, feeling like I had a terrible hangover whenever I woke up. I felt feverish, but I was in no shape to go looking for a thermometer so I don;t know if thee was actual fever. The day after the shot I literally had to crawl to the bathroom. Over the course of the next few days there was gradual improvement; it felt like a really bad flu, with all of my muscles feeling like I'd been doing incredibly strenuous exercise. And a pounding headache. After a couple of days I was able to use my arm pretty much, but the pain wasn't really gone until about a week after the shot.

The second shot was much better; the effects were the same but only lasted maybe three or four days.

I took it as a good sign - if the vacccine hit me that had, the actual virus would have been a nightmare.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:51 PM on April 29


Meant to add; I had the Pfizer vaccine.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:52 PM on April 29


Response by poster: Okay, not that I'm HAPPY to hear about everyone's vaccine-related suffering, but it is tremendously reassuring to know that I'm not alone! Thank you for sharing your experiences.

stowaway, I'm also worried about getting a third shot! Maybe our immune systems will be cool with it by then?
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack at 7:16 PM on April 29 [2 favorites]


I’m a pretty healthy (but also maybe with some undiagnosed autoimmune shit) 40-year-old woman. I too react strongly to medications.

I got big reactions to both shots (Pfizer), and my first one was a tad worse. Maybe I already had COVID?

On both shots:

My fevers never got as high as yours, but my temp runs low to begin with. As in, my 99.5 F is the kinda the equivalent of others’ 101 F or so?

It started with severe I-need-a-five-hour-nap level fatigue within hours, and over the span of a week I had intermittent waves of baby fevers, muscle aches, joint pain, and headaches. Oh, and rashes. So that was cool.

But little-to-no arm pain at all.

I never had ~that moment~ of feeling instantaneously better. It just gradually went away.

Second shot only:

I got very, very thirsty. I’m normally kinda hydration avoidant (ugh, I know), but was chugging fluids.

The lymph nodes in my jaw and under my collar bone swelled, on the side where I received my shot, but it didn’t particularly hurt.

I got the second shot on the last day of my period, when it was practically gone. And that motherfucker came rip-roaring back with a vengeance for another 5 days.

———

I still have moments of “hey, was that... uh, normal?” But it’s all gone now, so it’s mostly just curiosity. But by all means, talk to your doc if it’s freaking you out. I, personally, wouldn’t immediately freak out—it’s just over when it’s over. YMMV, and it apparently does vary.

Really, though, I’m so excited to be vaccinated, so even the longevity and confusion of it is worth it! Hang in there.
posted by functionequalsform at 7:18 PM on April 29


I have been told that many migraineurs get a killer migraine after they get the shot. This is the gossip in a migraine support group I glanced at.

Not looking forward to that... I have an appointment for the Astra-Zenica on Tuesday.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:23 PM on April 29


(Also, thank you for asking this question. I too find it reassuring.)
posted by functionequalsform at 7:25 PM on April 29


I see you've marked a few good answers, and I have to admit that I have only skimmed, but, you may be a bit dehydrated, from the sound worst headache, in addition to the other symptoms. Can you get some pedialyte or similar to see if that helps?
posted by kellyblah at 7:37 PM on April 29


I had the first Pfizer shot on a Saturday at 5:20 PM. I was absolutely destroyed Sunday and Monday - no fever, but achy, exhausted, and comically out of it. Tuesday through Thursday, I slept late and hit a wall in the early evening where I just. had. to stop. thinking. and acting. and. lie. down. Friday through Monday, I felt cruddy, but less operatically so. It wasn't until Tuesday that I felt somewhat like myself. I experienced minor itching over vast swathes of my body, and it was the last to depart - later that week.

I ostensibly worked every day but Monday. In reality, I managed only to attend meetings, alarm my unvaccinated colleagues with my tale of woe, and repeatedly and aggressively recommend that they watch Doom Patrol.

The second was much better for me. I felt tired and achy the day after, took Monday off out of sheer paranoia, and felt not only restored, but bizarrely energetic, by Monday night.
posted by dearlizadearliza at 10:01 PM on April 29 [3 favorites]


Best answer: I'm an epidemiologist and vaccine developer (40M). I also had covid before we were calling it covid, so I knew I was more likely to have heavy duty adverse effects after my second dose (of Moderna). Even so, I was surprised. I had a fever and felt extremely fatigued for only a day and a half or so, but I developed joint pain in my hips and knees that lasted about a week. It was genuinely painful for a couple of days in the middle there, I was limping a bit on days 4-5.

Mind, the vaccines we're all getting (generally) have a lot more active ingredient in them than most current vaccines have. We tend to knock down the amount of actives in vaccines for precisely this reason—even though thay heavy dose can help ensure a robust immune response, that robust response can also make people feel like garbage and, consequently, never return for follow-up doses or other vaccines in the future. When people are clamoring for a vaccine, though, and everyone wants effectiveness more than comfort, this is what we end up with.

Hang in there!
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:49 AM on April 30 [6 favorites]


Something else that made me feel better emotionally:

I have two nieces who are young enough that the HPV vaccines are available to them as adolescents. One of them got massively sick for all 3 shots - vomiting, staying home from school, feeling awful for 24+ hours per shot. My sister kept them on the vaccine schedule anyway because those reactions are immeasurably better than cancer.

So remembering that 1) my family is pukey, and 2) this is not the first vaccine to cause such side effects, made me feel better, that I'm still making the right decision.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:42 AM on April 30


Best answer: Yeah, we're already spitballing about boosters at work (I work at a great place where everyone has been extremely eager for vaccination and empathetic to everybody's post-vax needs) and we've all boiled down a strategy because we're all engineer-type people:

- get an appointment on a Wednesday or Thursday afternoon
- block off/cancel meetings the rest of the week
- hydrate with electrolytes like whoa all week
- move that arm regularly all evening afterwards, in between cold packs
- ibuprofen and tylenol; consider adding cimetidine, omeprazole, famotidine etc if you had a grudgey stomach after the previous shots
- takeout/easy comfort dinner and early bed night of, with sleep meds or at least Benadryl if possible
- no alarm the next morning, sleep until you feel like getting up
- if you wake up and feel like working, cool; catch up on quiet stuff you can drop if you start to feel like shit. OR, stay on the couch all day resting prophylactically
- rest all weekend
- hopefully feel pretty human by the following Monday

You may still feel bad, and like me it may linger a bit, but I do feel like leaning in to a few days of self-care is tremendously helpful. I think the worst thing you can do is build up a big dread - it's all manageable! It's better than the lingering effects of even mild covid, plus immunization appears to confer better immunity than having covid, so this is just a mildly unpleasant thing to prevent a worse thing personally and socially. It will likely self-resolve, and if it doesn't you can talk to your doctor.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:59 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


I contracted covid right at the beginning, in March 2020, and had a long-ish experience, with symptoms lasting from March until they petered out in early July. After my first Pfizer shot I had just a couple of days of fatigue and the sore arm, but my second shot knocked me OUT. The strangest part was that my symptoms mirrored my covid experience almost exactly, only without the respiratory symptoms and with much shorter duration. (I joked I was doing a covid speed run.) My symptoms didn't kick in until almost a week after my shot (I didn't start to feel sick from my infection until almost two weeks after exposure, either), and then it went: one day of gastrointestinal symptoms, half a day of fever, 36 hours of truly terrible joint pains in my arms and hands plus very swollen lymph nodes, two days of migraines, and then about a week of slowly abating fatigue.

Not gonna lie, it was a sucky week and a half! But infinitely better than the horrible four months I had with covid, plus no blood-pressure-skyrocketing cough or trouble breathing, so. I'll still be first in line for that booster in a year if it comes to it.

I second the recommendation to piggyback Tylenol and Ibuprofen (and I definitely took double-to-triple doses of the Ibuprofen at times, the joint pain was too much), and I took triptans when the migraines hit (I get them occasionally, so had meds on hand). I'm sorry you're feeling badly, but I'm glad everyone's experiences have alleviated your worry and also so so happy you are another person vaccinated!
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 11:06 AM on April 30


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