Life Wellbeing Coronavirus myths and half-truths: Ibuprofen and blood types

Coronavirus myths and half-truths: Ibuprofen and blood types

Ibuprofen coronavirus
There's been a lot of confusion around the recommendation for ibuprofen for COVID-19 patients this week. Photo: Getty
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There are two confusing health claims that have entered the coronavirus fray in the past 72 hours.

One surrounds ibuprofen, with some articles, studies and medical bodies advising people who have tested positive to COVID-19 to not take the drug – instead opt for paracetamol – because the former could worsen the effects of the virus.

The World Health Organisation added more confusion on Thursday, posting via social media that it “does not recommend against” the use of ibuprofen, and that it was not aware of any negative effects beyond those already acknowledged.

That’s the latest advice, but it’s vastly at odds with the information that was making headlines just 24 hours prior.

Here’s how it played out: Some doctors in France observed that patients who were being admitted to intensive care units, diagnosed with COVID-19 and had been taking medication like ibuprofen were displaying heightened symptoms.

The country’s health minister then went on to publicly recommend people take paracetamol for fever, rather than ibuprofen.

The advice is because of the data that links the latter drug and respiratory problems, said Professor Paul Little, Professor of Primary Care Research of the University of Southampton in the UK.

“The finding in two randomised trials that advise to use ibuprofen results in more severe illness or complications helps confirm that the association seen in the observational studies is indeed likely to be causal,” Professor Little said.

“Advice to use paracetamol is also less likely to result in complications.”

The WHO on Thursday, in its social posts, said it was consulting with physicians to try and discern the risks – if any – of people with the coronavirus taking ibuprofen.

This was backed up by the European Medicines Agency, which released a statement, saying, “There is currently no scientific evidence establishing a link between ibuprofen and worsening of COVID‑19”.

Confusing, right?

So what do you do if you have (or suspect you have) the coronavirus?

Consider both paracetamol and ibuprofen medication, and make a judgment based on their individual benefits and risks, the European association says.

If in doubt, consult a health professional.

Blood types

What’s the claim?

A study out of China says its results showed people sporting blood type A could be more vulnerable to the coronavirus than others.

Researchers studied more than 2000 COVID-19 patients and found that there was a higher representation of that blood group who had contracted the virus, versus the country’s overall population of type A residents.

So that’s 41 per cent of patients with type A blood in Wuhan and Shenzhen, versus 32 per cent of the population with the blood group.

Type As were also more likely to experience more severe symptoms.

On the other end of the scale, the type O blood group, which makes up 34 per cent of the country’s population, only represented a quarter of those confirmed cases that were studied.

What does this all mean?

At this stage, it’s just an interesting observation and shouldn’t be taken (by the general public) any more seriously than that.

It is research in its absolute infancy, and needs to be peer-reviewed, then tested several more times against several more populations.

So what’s the takeaway from all this?

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, and definitely don’t adjust your behaviours even if you do think, Hey that kind of rings true.

The best way to protect yourself and others during this pandemic is what we’re repeatedly told.

Practise social distancing, self-isolating if you have to, wash your hands, and look after each other.