How do steroid injections effective for allergies?

Steroid allergy shots use long-acting corticosteroids to decrease body inflammation. It reduces, and rarely removes, allergy symptoms.

A health care provider can directly inject the steroid into a person’s nose, or they can inject it into the muscle to relieve allergy symptoms.

When other therapies don’t work, they prefer to use steroid injections to combat seasonal allergies, or allergic rhinitis.

How they work

A person may get a shot of a steroid to treat allergic rhinitis.

An allergic reaction occurs when a harmless substance is perceived as a harmful invader by the body. The immune system is highly susceptible to the allergen, causing inflammation and other symptoms.

Steroids function by reducing this inflammation and crippling the overreaction of the immune system to the allergen.

Steroid shots address the symptomatic symptoms of allergies, both immediate and in the long term.

The dosage recommended is a single shot that includes 40–100 milligrams of steroids.

Side effects

In general, health care professionals consider corticosteroids a safe and effective treatment. That said, little research compares the short-term use of corticosteroids for allergies with the long-term use.

Steroid shots can cause side effects as with all drugs. Those might include:

Diabetes and osteoporosis

One research in 2013 related the use of corticosteroids to increased diabetes risk and osteoporosis.

The study included people who received one annual allergy shot in a row for 3 years, indicating that even small dosages could increase the risk.

Thus, people with diabetes or osteoporosis may wish to avoid steroid shots, and those at risk of either.

Vision problems

Some people very rarely report vision problems following an allergy shot — including temporary blindness.

For example, one study in 2014 showed that the probability of intranasal injection vision problems was 0.003 percent.

All of the complications in the study were resolved on their own and did not cause the participants permanent vision problems.

A weakened immune system

Shots of the hormones temporarily weaken the immune system. This may increase somewhat the risk of getting a cold or other infection.

The risk of steroids can outweigh the benefits for people taking drugs that weaken the immune system, as well as for those with conditions such as AIDS.

Allergic reaction

A person can be allergic to the steroids.

If a person is having anaphylaxis due to contact with steroids, they need emergency medical assistance.

Could include symptoms of anaphylaxis:

  • fainting
  • chest tightness
  • vomiting
  • hives
  • difficulty swallowing
  • a swollen throat
  • stridor

Alternative treatments 

Several other treatment options can help to relieve seasonal allergy symptoms including:

  • Avoiding allergens: By using an air filter at home and reducing time spent outside, exposure to allergens may be prevented or minimized.
  • Trying inhaled steroids: Nasal steroid sprays act quickly to reduce allergy symptoms but typically do not offer the same long-term relief as corticosteroids. Since this treatment  is safer and has fewer side effects, however, most doctors recommend it as a first option.
  • Using saline rinses: Saline nasal rinses can help keep the nose clean, reduce allergic effects and relieve symptoms such as dryness and congestion.
  • Using antihistamines: Antihistamines counter a substance called histamine, which plays a key role in allergic reactions. These drugs are available both over the counter and with a prescription.
  • Having allergy shots: Immunotherapy exposes a person to small quantities of an allergen to retrain their body not to react to it. However, allergy shots may not work right away, and they may not work for everyone.

How to get a steroid shot

A prescribed treatment is an injection of steroids. A person must consult a doctor to be eligible for a steroid shot, and have an allergy or other condition that steroids can treat effectively.

In most cases, a individual is injected into a doctor’s office.

Because shots of steroids can cause some side effects, doctors may not use these as a first-line allergy treatment.

Rather they may recommend that a person first pursue other treatments. If those do not relieve the symptoms, then a steroid injection may be recommended by the doctor.

How much do they cost?

The cost of a shot of a steroid allergy depends on the type of insurance that a person has, their copay and whether they have a deductible or not.

A person might also need to pay for a visit to the office to get a shot prescription.

Summary

Usually, seasonal allergies are not dangerous but they can affect the quality of life and ability of a person to function.

Steroid shots can be an effective and quick-acting treatment for allergies.

They may however cause some adverse effects. A person may need to try alternative treatments for this purpose, before a doctor prescribes a steroid shot.

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