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4 facts to know about ivermectin and COVID-19

A man and a healthcare provider discuss a box of medicine.

A deworming drug called ivermectin is getting a lot of attention. Some people are using it without medical supervision to try to prevent or treat COVID-19. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that it is not safe to do so.

What is ivermectin?

Ivermectin is a medicine used to treat worms and other parasites in animals like horses, sheep and cattle. FDA has approved another form of ivermectin (tablets) to treat intestinal worms in humans. And versions of ivermectin that go on the skin also are approved to treat head lice and skin problems like rosacea in people.

But there are a few important facts you should know before you take any type of ivermectin:

1. There's no proof it works against COVID-19. FDA has not approved or authorized ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19 in people or animals. There have not been enough studies to show if it is safe or effective for these uses.

2. Ivermectin made for animals can be toxic in humans. The types of ivermectin intended for animals are often highly concentrated. This is because they are meant for large animals. People who take these high doses can overdose. Some people have been hospitalized after taking ivermectin, FDA reports. And an ivermectin overdose can even cause death.

You should seek emergency medical help or call the poison control center hotline at 800.222.1222 if you have taken ivermectin and you have any symptoms like these:

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Dizziness.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Headache.
  • Fast heartbeat.
  • Balance problems.
  • Confusion.

3. Even the correct dose of ivermectin can interact with other medicines you might take. For instance, ivermectin can interact with blood thinners. This could harm your health. So you should only use ivermectin with your doctor's OK. If your doctor gives you a prescription for ivermectin, fill it at a pharmacy and take it just as directed. Never swallow products that should be used on the skin or use any drug meant for animals.

4. Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent COVID-19. Vaccines are free and safe. And, unlike ivermectin, there is strong evidence that they work. Along with other safety measures—like wearing a mask, social distancing and washing your hands—COVID-19 shots are your best and safest bet to avoid COVID-19.

Find out more about COVID-19 vaccines at our Coronavirus health topic center.

Reviewed 1/25/2022

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