Coronavirus mythbusting: ibuprofen, pregnancy & pets

Phil Sansom put a few common questions about the coronavirus to virologist Chris Smith...
23 March 2020

Interview with 

Chris Smith


this is a picture of a pregnant woman's stomach


Phil Sansom put a few common questions about the coronavirus to virologist Chris Smith...

Phil - First off, is it actually true that you're at higher risk if you take ibuprofen?

Chris - This story emerged, we think because someone from the French ministry of health made a statement saying you shouldn't take ibuprofen if you've got this disorder, and the problem is once you've made a statement medically, it's very, very hard to row back from that, and now people are being very cautionary about it, but there is no evidence at all that people who use ibuprofen in the context of this and other viruses are at any greater risk, specifically with this one, and therefore if you're already on ibuprofen, I certainly wouldn't change what you're taking. If you're about to start taking some anti-inflammatory drugs, for instance, you have a high temperature and you want to lower it, Paracetamol is an excellent drug that is actually a bit kinder to your stomach and has fewer side effects overall than ibuprofen. So that would be a good starter drug, but I certainly wouldn't - if you only had ibuprofen and you were feeling pretty rotten - eschew using ibuprofen just because you've heard these headlines. If you have no other contraindications to using it, you're not been told by anyone not to use it in the past, you're probably going to be fine.

Phil - Okay. No evidence for risk of ibuprofen. What about if you're pregnant? Are you at higher risk? Is your baby at higher risk?

Chris - Okay. The good news here, and it's nice to have some good news around the coronavirus outbreak, is that there is again no evidence that women who are pregnant are at higher risk during their pregnancy compared with someone of the same age and other risk profile from them who's not pregnant. The only exception to this is that we know that when someone's pregnant in the first part of their pregnancy, so that's the first trimester, the first about 12 weeks, there is, for any kind of infection or any kind of problem that you might get, that causes this associated with a high temperature, there is a slightly higher risk of a bad outcome to your pregnancy. It's a small risk or the same, but therefore if you can avoid catching this, because being pregnant is a risk factor for that happening, that would be a good idea. But when the chief medical officer said that we're going to regard pregnant women as in a high risk category, it did alarm a lot of people. But that's just because we're being very cautious. It's not because there's evidence that there's any risk of harm. And the other good piece of news is that there's no chance that this virus can jump across the placenta, which is the connection between the mum's bloodstream and the baby's bloodstream. It doesn't cross that barrier. Therefore it doesn't infect the baby when it's inside the mum and there's no risk of it doing developmental damage to the baby.

Phil - And finally, what about our beloved cats and dogs? Can they catch the virus?

Chris - This gets asked a lot. There was one paper that came out from Hong Kong, where a person who had this infection, that somehow their dog ended up being tested. It was a Pomeranian dog. It got tested and low levels of virus were recovered from the dog. Now this virus does infect animals. It came to us after all from bats, and probably via a pangolin as well, another mammal, so it can infect other animals. Therefore, there's no reason why it couldn't infect a dog or a cat, but we don't actually believe that the risk is high. We don't think the dog was shedding appreciably large amounts of virus and therefore you're probably absolutely fine, and your pets are not going to affect you, and you're probably not going to put them in jeopardy either.


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