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Steroid tablets or injections

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Introduction

This information is for people who have hay fever. It tells you about steroid tablets or injections, a treatment used for hay fever. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Do they work?

If you have hay fever, steroid tablets are likely to help. But they're not usually used as a treatment for hay fever. They can cause severe side effects if you take them for a long time.

The usual way of taking steroids for hay fever is as a spray you breathe in through your nose. To read more, see Steroid nasal sprays. If tablets are given, they tend to be used for a short time to treat severe hay fever. For example, if you're coming up to important exams and your hay fever is stopping you working, your doctor may suggest steroid tablets.

Steroid injections have been used in the past to treat hay fever. But they're not used much any more.

What are they?

The steroids used to treat hay fever are called corticosteroids. They help calm your body's allergic reaction to pollen. They're similar to the natural steroids your body makes. They're not the same as the anabolic steroids that some athletes and bodybuilders use.

One common steroid that you can take as tablets is called prednisolone. You usually take steroid tablets once a day. It's best to take them in the morning, after breakfast.

In the past, steroid injections were sometimes used to treat hay fever. They were given as long-lasting injections, called depot injections. You only have one dose, but the drug gets released into your body slowly. This means you only need one injection at the beginning of the hay fever season.

The problem with long-lasting injections is that, if you get side effects, there's no way to get the drug out of your body. If you get side effects from tablets, you can just stop taking them. Steroids can cause serious side effects if you take them for a long time. So doctors don't tend to use steroid injections to treat hay fever any more.

One steroid that can be given as a long-lasting injection is called methylprednisolone (brand name Depo-Medrone).

How can they help?

The research doesn't give a clear answer on whether steroid tablets work for hay fever. [81] [82] [83] But the studies are quite old and look at steroid tablets that aren't available any more. Doctors think that steroid tablets do work for people with hay fever but that they should only be taken for a short time.

There's lots of research showing that steroid injections help people with hay fever. [84] But all the research comes from between 1960 and 1989. That's because injections used to be a more common treatment for hay fever. They're not used much any more.

Last Updated: August 02, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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