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I’ve heard of a 3-month allergy shot. Is this safe for treatment of allergies?

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Updated April 23, 2014

Question: I’ve heard of a 3-month allergy shot. Is this safe for treatment of allergies?
Answer: 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. It is most likely that a “3-month allergy shot” 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 have serious implications in the long run.

Long-acting steroid shots are designed to release steroid slowly in the 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.

People with underlying medical conditions might also notice other 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 and have worsening of this condition. For this reason, a person with any chronic underlying disease should be closely followed by their physician after receiving a steroid shot.

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: Therefore, while steroid shots seem like a great way to treat allergies, they don’t come without risk. There are far better ways to treat allergies with much safer medications.

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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.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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