Should You Get Steroid Shots for Allergies?

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

Some "allergy shots" contain steroids.
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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 in the long run.

Why Steroid Shots Aren't the Best Treatment

Long-acting steroid shots are designed to slowly release the prescribed steroid dosage in your body. These medications act to decrease inflammation throughout the body, including in the nose, thereby treating allergy symptoms. However, the steroid also affects other areas of the body, not just the nose, and may cause significant side effects that can include both short-term and long-term types.

Short-Term Side Effects of Steroid Shots

Side effects that may occur right away as a result of steroid shots include:

  • increased appetite
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • changes in mood and behavior
  • flushing (redness) of the face
  • short-term weight gain due to increased water retention

People With Chronic Conditions May Have Even More Side Effects

If you have an underlying medical condition, you may notice additional side effects from steroid shots.

Each chronic condition has different effects and they may include: 

    If you have been diagnosed with a chronic health condition, let your allergist or physician know when discussing your allergy 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. Potential side effects of long-term steroid injection use may include:

    While steroid shots can go a long way to treat allergies, it's important to be aware of the many risks. One recent study showed that regularly using steroid shots to treat allergies increases the risk for diabetes and osteoporosis.

    Bottom line: 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 sublingual immunotherapy or allergy shots. Both treatments work to desensitize the immune system by introducing the allergen in small amounts—either through shots or orally. You can also take antihistamines, most of which are offered over-the-counter, or try avoiding your allergy triggers and making your home a safe space from allergens.

    Another option is to use nasal corticosteroids since they target only the nose and don't have the systemic side effects steroid shots do.

    Sources:

    Aasbjerg, K, Torp-Pedersen, C, Vaag, A, Backer, V. Treating Allergic Rhinitis with Depot-Steroid Injections Increase  Risk of Osteoporosis and DiabetesRespiratory Medicine. 2013;107(12):1852-1858.

    Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy). American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

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