Everything you need to know about the hay fever injection

The pollen count is high right now and lots of people are suffering with hay fever.

While most can manage it with over-the-counter antihistamines and products like eye drops or nasal sprays, for some people, the allergy is so severe nothing seems to work.

If that sounds like you, you might consider the hay fever injection.

Not currently offered on the NHS, you can get it privately for around £100 per jab.

There are pros and cons of the treatment though and you should carefully consider everything before booking it in.

What is the hay fever injection?

In some people, the immune system acts abnormally to certain things, producing antibodies because it thinks it needs to protect against it.

When the body comes into contact with these, instead of accepting it normally, it causes an allergic reaction. In hay fever sufferers, the allergen is pollen and the type you’re allergic to varies, with different pollen being higher in different months.

The hay fever injection is a dose of corticosteroids, known as Kenalog, which temporarily suppresses the immune system and can stop this ‘haywire’ reaction.

The pros and cons

While the injection can be lifechanging for some, it should only be used when other treatments have been exhausted.

Dr Dr Mayoni Gooneratne, Founder of Human Health by The Clinic, where the injection is offered, said: ‘There are complications and risks with high dose steroids so this should only be given when they’ve tried everything else.’

This is not an alternative to taking a daily anti-histamine but more for those who are still having an extreme reaction when taking all available medication.

It comes with a long list of side affects so the need for the injection must be weighed up against these.

Dr Sohere Roked, a GP at Omniya Clinic in London said: ‘The Kenalog injection is not first line treatment for hay fever. It is not generally available on the NHS.

‘It’s a high-dose injection of corticosteroids and long-term use can cause brittle bones, skin thinning, bruising, blood pressure issues, increased fat, and weakening of the immune system.

‘It does provide relief for some people who have severe hay fever symptoms, but other options should be explored first such as high dose antihistamines, eye drops, and nasal sprays.’

Dr Mayoni added: ‘Most of our patients who get this injection are veterans of hay fever. They’ve got terrible, debilitating symptoms that don’t stop completely even if they’ve been trying other things.

‘The injection is effective, but it does need to be used cautiously.’

Side effects can include fat atrophy (loss of fatty tissue in a localized area of the body that can cause pitting, scarring and bumps), adrenal suppression (where you body doesn’t produce enough hormones), weight change, fluid retention, heart failure and hypertension.

Dr Mayoni added it is not suitable for anyone with any of the following issues:

  • Pregnancy or breast feeding
  • Current infection or recent exposure to an infection
  • Osteoporosis
  • History of psychosis Glaucoma
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Hypertension
  • Cardiovascular disease or heart failure
  • Allergy to Kenalog or any of its contents

The hay fever injection and the Covid-19 pandemic

Many clinics paused offering the injection during the pandemic because it weakens the immune system.

Dy Mayoni said: ‘As a clinic, we waited until rates came down enough to offer this injection again. It needs to be a medically led decision. We wouldn’t encourage a reduction in immunity if there were very high rates of Covid-19 in London, where we are based.

‘It also always important to know where people are in their Covid-19 vaccination schedule and we would normally say three to four weeks after that for this.

‘It does mean that some people are having to put off their hay fever injection because of the vaccination, but I would always say they must get their covid vaccination.

‘It’s really hard because the pollen count is very high this year and it is making them miserable.’

How often can you get it?

You can get the injection up to twice a year and it is best to get the first one towards the beginning of the pollen season in March.

Dr Mayoni added that the regularity of injections varies on a case by case basis.

She said: ‘We try to start with a lower dose and then increase that if we need to. Some people may find that as time goes on, they can decrease that dose.’

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