A few people asked me to report back following my Covid-19 vaccine. The following post is a diary of the side effects I experienced and how this affected my ME/CFS body.
A few points before I start;
● I live with severe ME & Fibromyalgia – it’s often hard to determine what are side effects and what are just my ‘normal’ symptoms.
● I normally react badly to medication and I’m unable to tolerate prescription pain meds. However, I do not have anything that doctors classify as an allergy.
● Although this is how I reacted to the vaccine, it does not mean your experience will be the same.
● I had The University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine (at home)
● The timing of the vaccine wasn’t great. In the space of 2 weeks my ME body had to cope with a tooth abscess, 7 days of antibiotics, a tooth extraction and the vaccine. My reactions may be because I was already so run down.
The First 24 Hours
I was fully prepared to feel like crap (even more than normal) for a few days, but my biggest concern was having an immediate serious reaction. Thankfully this didn’t happen. I felt lightheaded & nauseous for the first few hours, and developed a headache. I spoke to my best friend who coincidentally had the vaccine the same morning (she is generally healthy), and she also felt lightheaded, so it looks like a common reaction.
The first few hours were manageable (I had the vaccine at 11am), but I really struggled to get to sleep – my body was so agitated. We are all familiar with the ‘tired but wired’ feeling.
When I finally got to sleep, I woke up 1-2 hours later feeling awful. I was stiff and achy, and freezing cold with uncontrollable shivers. This was at the 14-hour mark so I’m guessing my immune system had started to do its thing.
It took me two hours to warm up even with a hot water bottle and heated throw. And every time I came close to going back to sleep, my body temperature plummeted, and the shivers returned.
Other symptoms; painful restless legs, muscle cramps, headache, runny nose, sore throat, and the injection site became red, swollen and painful. I also felt like I’ve eaten something I’m intolerant to – many of you will know that ‘poisoned feeling’.
I want to be completely honest; it was a bad night, and I felt really wiped out, achy and ‘hungover’ the next day. But the symptoms were nothing that I don’t already deal with on my ‘bad’ days. It felt like an acute ME/CFS crash/ Fibromyalgia flare, and I treated it like that, with lots of rest.
All my symptoms persisted through day 2 (but didn’t get any worse), and I kept fluctuating between freezing cold with shivers, and overheating with sweats. I did however manage to get some rest which was a welcomed relief.
Symptoms: wiped-out, achy, weak, drowsy, dizzy, hungover, painful restless legs, muscle cramps, headache, runny nose, sore throat, shivers, fever, ‘poisoned feeling’, and the injection site was still very sore.
Please make sure you drink plenty of water. I got dehydrated due to the sweats and being too weak to get up to get water. Plan ahead and have extra water by your bed.
Unfortunately my regular carer was off during this period (not great timing) and my care was inconsistent, sometimes non-existent – this didn’t help.
I have spoken to a few people now who had similar reactions to mine – they also found the first 48 hours tough, but then their symptoms started to ease.
It was another long and restless night, but at least I was mentally prepared for it this time, and I managed to get some sleep, although I had very agitated and weird dreams.
I woke up feeling beaten-up and bruised, but feeling a little better.
Although some of the side effects persisted to day three, they were nowhere near as severe – I felt like I was over the worst. I was really wiped out and I had the ‘hit by a bus’ feeling, I was also really tearful that day and with bad brain fog – but that’s to be expected. And so hungry – I couldn’t stop eating.
I managed to sleep better which really helped, although my dreams were very trippy. I was still having some shivers & sweats. This may not be completely down to the vaccine – I normally have problems regulating my body temperature and I’m perimenopausal.
I finally plucked up the courage to look at the side effects list for The University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and everything I’ve experienced is either listed as ‘very common’ or ‘common’.
Very Common (may affect more than 1 in 10 people)
● tenderness, pain, warmth, redness, itching, swelling or bruising where the injection is given
● generally feeling unwell
● feeling tired (fatigue) chills or feeling feverish
● feeling sick (nausea)
● joint pain or muscle ache
Common (may affect up to 1 in 10 people)
● a lump at the injection site
● being sick (vomiting)
● flu-like symptoms, such as high temperature, sore throat, runny nose, cough and chills.
Roundup & Tips
The first 48 hours were pretty unpleasant but then the side effects started to ease.
Although I felt wiped-out and achy, the additional symptoms brought on by the vaccine were gone after four days – all except the injection site which, along with the surrounding area, was still red, swollen and sore.
I knew it was going to take a few more days of rest to get back to my baseline, but was relieved the worst was over.
My (Non-Professional) Advice;
Treat the symptoms and know that this will pass.
If you experience the stiffness and cramping too, try gentle stretches, painkillers if you can tolerate them, and even a warm Epsom salt bath if that’s an option for you (this should help the chills too). Apply heat pads and/or hot water bottle, stay hydrated & rest.
I took extra antihistamines and extra vitamin C, although I have no idea if this helped. And paracetamol for the aches & stiffness (because I can’t tolerate anything stronger).
I live alone. If I’d known how bad the side effects were going to be I’d probably have arranged for a family member to stay with me for the first couple of days, especially as my regular carer was on holiday. So make plans if you think you may need extra help.
I refused to look at the side effects list I was given until day 3 – my anxiety doesn’t need any encouragement. But what I discovered was; everything I experienced is either listed as ‘very common’ or ‘common’. So please don’t panic if you experience the same.
It’s actually quite scary, although interesting, how similar the side effects I experienced immediately after the Covid-19 vaccine are to my symptoms when my ME is at its worst. They’re almost identical – which makes me think my immune system plays a big part in my ill-health – are mast cells the culprit? I need to do some research into the mechanisms behind how this vaccine works, but that will have to wait for another day.
I’m going to be completely honest; the days following the jab weren’t pleasant – It’s certainly not something I would choose to go through. Do I think it was worth it? Absolutely! The alternative would be a lot worse – I don’t think I would survive if I contracted Covid-19.
I hope reading my experiences helps you prepare for your vaccine – please feel free to ask any questions.
Have you had the Covid-19 vaccine – how did your body respond? Please comment below👇
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