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STEROID INJECTIONS AND HOW THEY COULD AFFECT YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM…

Your immune system is a very important part of your health especially during this Covid-19 Pandemic. At this time of year many of us are having our flu vaccines but it can take up to 14 days for the immune system to mount an immune response so your are not immune to the flu the minute you have the injection.

They talk about supplements in the winter to improve your immune system as while a healthy diet containing an abundance of nutrients can help fend off illness, there is also a number of supplements that will boost your immunity and keep you fit. These include Vitamin C, and D, Zinc, Pelargonium (herbal remedy for bronchitis, Echinacea, Elderberry, Black Garlic, Iron and Omega 3’s but none of these should be taken until you have checked with your GP first.

But, what about our immune system and Covid-19? Well, according to the British Nutrition Foundation and written in Woman & Home, there is no individual food or supplement that will stop us contracting highly infectious viruses such as Covid-19, but it is important to make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals to support your immune system. The NHS recommends taking vitamin D supplements if you are self-isolating or spending the majority of your time indoors.

And, what about steroid injections and the immune system? Well, as some of my readers will have read I have been suffering lately with awful low back and hip pain and after an MRI showed arthritis in my sacroiliac joints as well as in multi levels of my low back I was offered a steroid injection to help with the pain.

Before signing the consent form I was briefly informed that having this injection could ‘suppress my immune system’. On the site Ultrasound Guided Injections, which is what I had states that ‘since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, we are making patients aware of the specific implications to be considered in relation to corticosteroid injections and COVID-19’.

It goes on to explain in full about why you should really think about having a steroid injection or not.

Corticosteroids are an immuno-suppressant (they inhibit our immune system) which is one of the main ways in which they work and are clinically useful – they are powerful anti-inflammatory medication (they reduce inflammation and swelling) and therefore pain. However this means corticosteroids will also have a inhibitory impact on our general immune system and our ability to fight infections.

The immuno-suppressant effect to believed to last up to several weeks after the injection although this is believed to vary from person to person (Hackett et al 2020).  Although there is a lack of clear evidence to act as guidance on this matter in terms of the exact size of increase in risk there might be.

It is important that any patients considering a corticosteroid injection are aware of the fact that corticosteroids could theoretically i) increase the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 due to its immuno-suppressant effect ii) inhibit their body’s ability to fight the COVID-19 virus if contracted and iii) could potentially make the patients more contagious to people around them, following a corticosteroid injection. One study published in 2018 showed patients who had received a corticosteroid injection were more likely to develop seasonal flu. Because the size of risk is unknown it is recommended that patients and clinicians should reach a shared decision (Morgan and Dattani 2020)  on a case by case basis weighing up the risks and benefits of proceeding with steroid injection treatment (Amani et al 2020)

Now had I read this or realised this I probably would not have had the injection until Covid-19 is out of the way but I didn’t really understand this much about it until I came home and looked on the internet. I actually have another one booked into the other sacroiliac joint next week but I have already decided to cancel this injection. It’s actually not totally because of what I have read about but also because I don’t feel it’s been as successful as I had hoped and so why have another one unless it works for your problem.

I do take a few supplements and I am on a very high dose of Vitamin D for my Osteopenia but with this disease spreading so quickly throughout the world at the moment you would think that any treatments that suppress your immune system should not be used at the moment unless its a medical emergency.

I think if you follow these 8 steps from Web MD it will definitely help to keep your immune system up to scratch.

  1. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  2. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
  3. Get enough sleep.
  4. Wash your hands.
  5. Keep up with your vaccinations. Almost everyone who’s at least 6 months old should get a flu vaccine every year.
  6. Keep your weight healthy.
  7. Don’t drink too much alcohol.
  8. Don’t smoke.

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