Injectable Steroids— Are they worth the risks?

If you have watched the news lately, you may have heard about the rare fungus Exserohilum rostratum causing meningitis in nearly 300 patients who received an injection of contaminated steroid from a compounding pharmacy.

While this type of contamination is exceedingly rare, it should be noted there are both risks and benefits to steroids.

Steroids are commonly used in treatment of allergic rhinitis (hay fever), asthma and eczema. In fact, inhaled steroids are considered the preferred treatment for persistent asthma. They are used daily as long-term controller medicines to decrease and prevent swelling, mucous and inflammation in the lungs. They will control asthma to prevent symptoms and improve lung function. At usual doses, there are very few adverse effects even in children. Nasal steroids sprays are the preferred treatment for allergic rhinitis (hay fever). When used daily, they will effectively treat sneezing, stuffiness, drainage and itching. Steroid creams and ointments are available to treat eczema. They are available in various potencies. Hydrocortisone, bought at the grocery store, is a low potency steroid cream. Even though all of these are types of steroids, it is not the same steroid that has been abused by athletes to increase muscle mass and strength.

With all of the current medications now available, injections of steroids for the treatment of allergies is not necessary. That is good news because injections of steroids have the potential for significant and sometimes irreversible side effects on your eyes, bones, skin and other organs. The goal is to treat allergies and asthma with the most effective treatment with the least amount of risk and side effects.