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How Do I Use Cortisone for Allergies?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 17, 2024
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The two main ways to use cortisone for allergies is by taking cortisone pills or by using a cortisone cream. Doctors sometimes prescribe oral cortisone, a type of steroid hormone, for people who are suffering from allergies. They often reserve it for the most serious cases, however, as this medication is associated with a range of side effects, some of which are severe. In addition, creams containing cortisone are sometimes used to treat allergy symptoms that involve the skin.

People develop allergic reactions when their immune systems react to substances that are harmless. The immune system often reacts in response to substances like mold and animal dander, for example, and produces chemicals that cause allergy symptoms. Using oral cortisone for allergies works by suppressing the immune system's response and also reducing any allergy-related inflammation.

You will likely be advised to stay alert for signs of side effects when you take cortisone for allergies. This type of medication is associated with ulcers, sleep difficulties, high blood pressure, fluid retention, and increased risk of infection when taken by mouth. In fact, psychosis, which is marked by loss of touch with reality, is even a possibility when you take oral cortisone. Doctors usually try to avoid prolonged use of cortisone for allergies in an effort to prevent or minimize serious side effects.

It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions when it comes to taking this and other types of prescription medications. Generally, you can take cortisone with food or without it, but taking it with food can help if it upsets your stomach. Missing a dosage usually means taking it as soon as you do remember or skipping it in order to avoid taking doses close together. When you need to discontinue oral use of cortisone, your doctor may advise you to stop taking it gradually rather than quickly, as fast withdrawal of this drug can worsen side effects.

While it is possible to use cortisone for allergies in children, doctors typically prefer other medications. Children are often more likely to experience adverse effects of the drug than adults. This drug can also adversely affect a child's growth rate, which may require monitoring by a doctor.

When cortisone cream is used on the skin, it helps reduce the inflammatory response the skin may have as part of an allergic reaction. An inflammatory response occurs when chemicals, such as prostaglandins, are released inside the body because of an allergy. These chemicals cause itching, redness, and sometimes a rash or hives. Side effects of the topical medication include permanently thinned skin in the affected area and a rash with bumps that look like acne pimples. Often, however, people do not experience side effects when creams contain smaller amounts of cortisone or with short-term use.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By fBoyle — On Aug 20, 2014

I wasn't aware that cortisone comes in tablet form. I thought it was only available as an injection or topically.

I've had a cortisone injection done before. I didn't know that I was allergic to shellfish and my body started to swell. Cortisone was one of the things I was given at the hospital to control the allergic reaction.

The only downside of that was since I have type two diabetes, my blood sugar went up due to cortisone so I had to take more diabetes medication. But considering the fact that I could have died from allergies, that side effect did not bother me too much. Type one diabetics or people with uncontrolled diabetes may have serious issues with cortisone though. So that should be noted.

By ysmina — On Aug 20, 2014

@fify-- Hydrocortisone is a type of cortisone. But these treatments that are available over the counter are not very strong. Very strong cortisone treatments are only available by prescription. And it's true that doctors only prescribe them when really necessary and for brief periods only.

The best treatment for allergies is discovering the cause and trying to eliminate it. Although cortisone works well for skin allergies particularly, it's not a treatment that can be used for long periods of time.

By fify — On Aug 19, 2014

How can cortisone for allergies be reserved for serious cases when it's available over the counter? There are over the counter topical hydrocortisone creams for allergic reactions and everyone has access to them. I used it once too when I developed hives due to mites.

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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