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What Is Ivermectin?

Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on August 23, 2021

Ivermectin is a medication that treats some parasitic diseases. There are two types of the medication. Doctors prescribe one kind for certain health conditions in people, and veterinarians prescribe another that’s safe only for animals.

What Conditions Does Ivermectin Treat?

In people, the FDA has approved prescription ivermectin tablets to treat two infections caused by parasitic worms:

  • Strongyloidiasis, which can cause problems like belly pain, bloating, heartburn, diarrhea, and rashes. However, most people who catch it don’t have symptoms.
  • Onchocerciasis, also called river blindness, which can bring on an itchy rash, eye disease, or abnormal growths under the skin.

Doctors can also prescribe a type of ivermectin that you put on your skin (called a topical medication) to treat head lice and skin conditions like rosacea and scabies.

In animals, ivermectin can help prevent heartworm disease and certain parasites.

It’s dangerous for humans to take any drug made for animals, including ivermectin. A dose meant for a big animal like a horse or cow (which can weigh 2,000 pounds or more) can be toxic for a person. Also, some of the inactive ingredients in an animal medication might not be safe for people.

Is Ivermectin Approved to Treat COVID-19?

The FDA hasn’t approved ivermectin to treat or prevent the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Scientists have been studying the drug to find out if it can treat COVID-19, but they need more information before they can say whether it’s safe or effective. That’s why major groups like the FDA, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the World Health Organization say you shouldn’t take ivermectin for COVID-19 unless you’re enrolled in a professional medical study called a clinical trial.

The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the coronavirus is to get vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines are approved for everyone 12 years old and up. They’re generally safe and effective, with the benefits outweighing any risks.

The same can’t be said about taking ivermectin for COVID-19. If you’re not under a doctor’s care, it’s possible to take too much and overdose, which can lead to seizures, coma, and death.

What Are the Side Effects of Ivermectin?

At doses that doctors usually prescribe for people, ivermectin can have side effects like:

Call your doctor right away if you’re taking prescription ivermectin and notice severe side effects like:

 

How Do You Take Ivermectin?

If your doctor recommends ivermectin tablets to treat a medical issue, make sure they know about any other health conditions you have. It’s especially important to tell them if you:

Also let them know about any other medications or supplements you’re taking. Ivermectin can mix badly with meds like blood-thinning drugs.

Carefully follow your doctor’s instructions on how to take ivermectin. Swallow the correct dose with a glass of water on an empty stomach at least 30 minutes before you eat or 2 hours afterward. Don’t take ivermectin with food.

Take the full course of medicine as prescribed, even if you start feeling better before you finish taking it. If you miss a dose, take it as soon as possible. If it’s almost time for you to take your next dose, take that dose alone; don’t take double the amount.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

FDA: “Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19.”

Infectious Diseases Society of America: “IDSA Guidelines on the Treatment and Management of Patients with COVID-19.”

World Health Organization: “WHO advises that ivermectin only be used to treat COVID-19 within clinical trials.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Ivermectin tablets.”

CDC: “Strongyloidiasis Infection FAQs,” “Onchocerciasis FAQs,” “Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination.”

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