Don't Do This the Night Before Your Vaccine Appointment, Experts Say

Experts say it could have serious consequences for your immunity and overall health.

There are a handful of things you can do in the days leading up to your COVID vaccine to help things go smoothly. For instance, you can start by getting a good night's sleep to offset the fatigue you may feel after, and drink plenty of fluids to help reduce the severity of any flu-like side effects you might experience. But experts say not just any fluids will do—your choice of beverage matters, especially if your go-to selection contains alcohol. This time, you'll want to skip the nightcap in the days leading up to your shot in favor of a few tall glasses of water. Doing otherwise, experts say, could feasibly lower your immune response to the vaccine. Read on to learn about this expert insight, and for more up-to-date vaccine news, The CDC Says Don't Do This With the Second Dose of Your COVID Vaccine.

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have yet to offer any formal recommendation on alcohol consumption surrounding the vaccine, Time reports that European health experts suggest abstaining from alcohol in the days before vaccination in order to "avoid taxing the immune system."

Alcohol is known to have a suppressive effect on the immune system over time, but studies have shown that you would likely need to drink in excess—at least four to five drinks in one sitting—for your consumption to have an acute effect on the vaccine's efficacy. A 2015 study published in the journal Alcohol found that "a single episode of binge alcohol intoxication exerted effects on the immune system that caused an early and transient pro-inflammatory state followed by an anti-inflammatory state." The researchers found that, within the hours following excessive drinking, there was a notable drop in monocytes—white blood cells that are integral to forming a robust immune response.

"If [monocytes are] getting knocked down by a whole bunch of binge drinking, then yes, [the vaccine is] not going to work as well," Christian Ramers, MD, of Family Health Centers of San Diego, recently told ABC News. "So I think it's theoretically plausible that alcohol could impair, ultimately, your ability to respond to the vaccine, or to any other infection for that matter," she added.

And, if you're considering a wild night out before your vaccine, there's an even simpler reason to skip alcohol: it can easily exacerbate your side effects. "Drinking too much alcohol can lead to dehydration and a hangover," warn experts from UCHealth. "Do not place yourself in a position to be fighting a hangover and possible side effects from the second shot." Read on to find out why limiting your alcohol consumption is especially important during the pandemic, and for more crucial vaccine tips, The CDC Says Don't Do This Within 2 Weeks of Your COVID Vaccine.

Drinking regularly makes you more susceptible to disease.

Beyond its ability to lower your acute immune response to a vaccine, excessive alcohol consumption can also weaken your immune system in the long term. "If you drink every day, or almost every day, you might notice that you catch colds, flu or other illnesses more frequently than people who don't drink," the Cleveland Clinic explains. "This is because alcohol can weaken the immune system and make the body more susceptible to infections."

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), this can ultimately make you a "much easier target" for serious diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis, and more. And for more health news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

When you metabolize alcohol, it slows your other systems.

close up of bearded white man drinking a glass of beer

It's a lot of work for your body to process alcohol, and sometimes that means other important bodily systems will have to take a back seat.

"Once you take a drink, your body makes metabolizing it a priority—above processing anything else," the Cleveland Clinic explains. "Unlike proteins, carbohydrates and fats, your body doesn't have a way to store alcohol, so it has to move to the front of the metabolizing line." The Cleveland Clinic's experts note that the reason alcohol can have consequences for your liver health is because it's that organ that does the heavy lifting when it comes to filtering alcohol out of your bloodstream. And for more important health news, These Are the Side Effects of the New Johnson & Johnson Vaccine, FDA Says.

Alcohol consumption can affect your heart health.

Woman's heart getting checked

Beyond the obvious connection between drinking and liver problems, alcohol can affect several other essential organs—including your heart.

The NIAAA warns that people who drink regularly are more likely to experience cardiomyopathy (which they define as "stretching and drooping of heart muscle"), heart arrhythmias, stroke, and high blood pressure. Ultimately, these conditions can increase your risk of a heart attack.

It can also cause several types of cancer.

woman holding pink ribbon for breast cancer

According to the National Institute of Health's National Cancer Institute (NCI), alcohol consumption is associated with several types of cancer, including cancer of the esophagus, liver, breast, colon, and more. The National Toxicology Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has even identified alcohol as a known human carcinogen.

The NCI notes that there is sufficient evidence to indicate that the more alcohol a person drinks over time, the higher their risk of developing an alcohol-associated cancer. They estimate, based on data from 2009, that 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S. (nearly 20,000 individuals) resulted from alcohol consumption—all the more reason to drink responsibly and in moderation. And for more ways to protect yourself before getting your shot, If You Take This Common Medication, Talk to a Doctor Before Your Vaccine.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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