Should You Get Steroid Shots for Allergies?

Steroid shots may be effective, but they aren't the safest

3 Month Shots
Some "allergy shots" contain steroids. Thomas Tolstrup Collection/Iconica/Getty Images

Allergy shots, or immunotherapy, are a series of injections that are given over many months to years and are not given as a single shot. What many refer to as a "3-month allergy shot,” on the other hand, represents a long-acting corticosteroid injection, such as triamcinolone (Kenalog). Many people swear by these long-acting steroid shots as a great way to get through their allergy season symptom-free.

However, frequent use of such medications, even once a year, can cause serious complications.

Long-acting steroid shots are designed to slowly release the prescribed steroid dosage in your body. These medications act to decrease inflammation in the body, including in the nose, thereby treating allergy symptoms. However, the steroid also affects other areas of the body and may cause significant side effects. Side effects can include both short-term and long-term types.

Short-Term Side Effects of Steroid Shots

Short-term side effects may include an increase in appetite, difficulty sleeping (insomnia), changes in mood and behavior, flushing (redness) of the face, and short-term weight gain due to increased water retention.

If you have an underlying medical condition, you might notice additional side effects. Those with diabetes mellitus may see an increase in their blood sugar readings; those with high blood pressure may see their blood pressure readings rise.

People with glaucoma could have an increase of the pressures within their eyes; people with congestive heart failure may retain water or see their condition worsen. If you have been diagnosed with a chronic health condition, let your allergist or physician know when discussing your treatment plan. 

Long-Term Side Effects of Steroid Shots

When steroid shots are used frequently or for long periods of time, more serious side effects may occur. Side effects of long-term steroid use may include:

While steroid shots can go a long way to treat allergies, it is important to be aware of the risks. There are far better and safer ways to treat allergies that you can discuss with your allergist or physician. 

Steroid Shot Alternatives

If you live with allergies, ask your doctor about trying immunotherapy or allergy shots. Both allergy shots and immunotherapy try to desensitize the immune system by introducing the allergen in small amount – either through shots or orally. You can also take antihistamines, many of which are offered over-the-counter, or try avoiding your allergy triggers and making your home a safe space from allergens. 

Source:

Schleimer RP, Spahn JD, Covar R, Szefler SJ. Glucocorticoids. In: Adkinson NF, Yunginger JW, Busse WW, et al, eds. Middleton’s Allergy Principles and Practice. 6th edition. Philadelphia: Mosby Publishing; 2003:870-914.

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