You've gotten the flu shot every year since before you can remember, so you're used to ye olde arm soreness for a day or two after you get vaccinated. But with a COVID vaccine, you've got to get two doses within three or four weeks of each other, so you might be dealing with an out-of-commission appendage for a few days in a month. One of the more amusing questions to pop up in this brave new world of ours, therefore, is which is the best arm to get your COVID vaccine in?
Why Does My Arm Hurt After Getting A Vaccine?
"Pain at or near the injection site is very common, tends to be an expected finding for the administration of most vaccines, and is typically not a concerning finding," says Dr. Sanjeev Jain, M.D., a doctor double-board certified in immunology and internal medicine at Columbia Asthma and Allergy Clinic. When you get vaccinated, he explains, your body's immune system is learning to fight off a virus — and that means calling all available resources to the injection site, which causes inflammation. All that can translate into some soreness.
Which Arm Should I Get My COVID Vaccine In?
Your doctor can't help you with this one, because there isn't a right answer. "There is truly no 'best' arm to receive your vaccination in," Dr. Jain tells Bustle. But, as with anything that you wonder about on the internet, he says that there are different shot philosophies that people often have. "Some recommend receiving the vaccination in your non-dominant arm since the local reactions including soreness in this arm are less likely to get in the way of day-to-day activities," he tells Bustle. So if you're right-handed, direct the vaccine administrator over to Lefty.
Other folks choose to take the proverbial punch in their dominant arm, Dr. Jain says, because you're more likely to move it around a lot throughout the day — and that might help the soreness go away faster. "Frequent movement of the arm can increase blood flow to the affected area and help to clear the inflammatory mediators from the site quicker," Dr. Jain says.
The soreness from the first shot should go away within a couple of days, Dr. Jain says. If you're looking to speed up the process, he recommends icing your injection site for 20 minutes a few times a day until the soreness eases, tossing some Tylenol into the mix if you need to.
Should I Get My COVID Vaccine Shots In Different Arms?
When it comes time for your second shot, the choice, once again, is yours. "There is no risk or benefit to receiving your second injection in the same or opposite arm, so just go with whatever is most comfortable for you." Ultimately, choosing a vaccine arm is really a matter of figuring out if you want to alternate the soreness or go ahead and hit the same arm again.
Dr. Sanjeev Jain, M.D., doctor double-board certified in immunology and internal medicine, Columbia Asthma and Allergy Clinic