Steroid shots for allergies use long-acting corticosteroids to reduce inflammation in the body. This decreases, and sometimes eliminates, the symptoms of allergies.
A health professional can inject the steroid directly into a person’s nose, or they can inject it into the muscle to ease the systemic symptoms of allergies.
They tend to use steroid injections to treat seasonal allergies, or allergic rhinitis, when other treatments do not work.
An allergic reaction occurs when the body treats a harmless substance as a dangerous invader. The immune system reacts strongly to the allergen, causing inflammation and other symptoms.
Steroids work by reducing this inflammation and weakening the immune system’s overreaction to the allergen.
Steroid shots target both the immediate and long-term symptomatic effects of allergies.
The suggested dose is an individual shot containing 40–100 milligrams of steroids.
Health professionals generally consider corticosteroids a safe and effective treatment. That said, little research has compared short-term with long-term use of corticosteroids for allergies.
Like all drugs, steroid shots can cause side effects. These may include:
Diabetes and osteoporosis
One 2013 study linked corticosteroid use to an increased risk of diabetes and osteoporosis.
The study included people who got one annual allergy shot for 3 years in a row, suggesting that even low dosages may increase the risk.
Therefore, people with diabetes or osteoporosis and those at risk of either may wish to avoid steroid shots.
Very rarely, some people report vision problems — including temporary blindness — following an allergy shot.
For example, one 2014 study found that the risk of vision complications for intranasal injection is 0.003%.
All complications in the study resolved on their own and did not cause permanent vision issues in the participants.
A weakened immune system
Steroid shots temporarily suppress the immune system. This may slightly increase the risk of getting a cold or other infection.
For people taking drugs that weaken the immune system, as well as those with conditions such as AIDS, the risk of steroids may outweigh the benefits.
It is possible for a person to be allergic to steroids.
If a person experiences anaphylaxis as a result of coming into contact with steroids, they need emergency medical help.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include:
- chest tightness
- difficulty swallowing
- a swollen throat
Several other treatment options can help relieve the symptoms of seasonal allergies, including:
- Avoiding allergens: It may be possible to avoid or reduce exposure to allergens by using an air filter at home and minimizing time spent outside.
- Trying inhaled steroids: Nasal steroid sprays act rapidly to reduce the symptoms of allergies, but they do not typically offer the same long-term relief as corticosteroids. However, because this treatment is safer and has fewer side effects, most doctors recommend it as the first option.
- Using saline rinses: Saline nasal rinses can help keep the nose clean, reducing the effects of allergens and relieving 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.
A steroid injection is a prescription treatment. To be eligible for a steroid shot, a person must consult a doctor and have an allergy or other condition that steroids can effectively treat.
In most cases, a person will receive the injection in a doctor’s office.
Because steroid shots can cause some side effects, doctors may not use them as a first-line treatment for allergies.
Instead, they may recommend that a person pursue other treatments first. If those do not relieve the symptoms, the doctor may then recommend a steroid injection.
The cost of a steroid allergy shot depends on the type of insurance a person has, their copay, and whether or not they have a deductible.
A person may also need to pay for an office visit to get a prescription for the shot.
Seasonal allergies are not usually dangerous, but they can affect a person’s quality of life and ability to function.
Steroid shots for allergies can be an effective and fast-acting treatment.
However, they may cause some adverse effects. For this reason, a person may need to try alternative treatments before a doctor prescribes a steroid shot.