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  • Jessica Carrillo

I'm Terrified of Needles, but I Swear by Steroid Nose Shots Now

When I was younger, my mom started getting nose shots. Sometimes she would take me along, but every time she did, I opted to stay in the lobby. It was in a cute little office with Christmas green carpet. I brought toys and coloring books to work on while I waited. It never took too long and she swore by them. My mom has had horrid environmental allergies all her life. She did some allergy shots when she was in high school, and they helped her for a while. But even when I was little, she could barely leave the house because her allergies were so bad. So once she started getting these shots, she was able to take a little less Benadryl and go out just a bit more.

When I was little, I had environmental allergies too, but they were never as bad as my mom. However, as I have gotten older, I have gotten to the point where I can’t eat fruit without some allergy discomfort. And some of the fruit I will react to the point where I need an epi-pen and have to avoid it like any other food allergy. As my allergies started to get worse, my mom suggested that I try getting nose shots too. But I have always been terrified of needles (despite the fact that I carry two in my bag everywhere I go lol) and swore I would NEVER do it.

However, this year has been an all-time worst allergy year of my life. My environmental allergies are so out of control that I have to take 24 hr Zyrtec and several Benadryls a day. It’s exhausting dealing with allergy symptoms and even more dealing with the effects of the antihistamines. On top of that, I have had to use the nose spray Flonase frequently to keep my body in check too.

I definitely am not a doctor, and I have had many tell me about the negative effects of the antihistamines that I rely on daily. So in no way am I suggesting anybody else take so many meds. As for the nose shots, they help me but I can't guarantee that they will for you. It’s just something I have to do in order to function all right. (If you are interested in nose shots, please talk to your doctor first!) But after seeing how bad my allergies have been this year, I finally decided that I would try to do more outside of the box things to try to improve my quality of life and hopefully decrease my antihistamine intake. So I told my mom I wanted to try the nose shots.

My first appointment was this past June, and boy was it something. We went to that same little office with the Christmas-green carpet (yep it was the same!) and I finally got to see what it all looked like beyond the reception window. I sat myself down in the chair, full of nerves and wondering if this was actually a horrible idea. I asked my mom to join me in the treatment room and hoped she could help keep me calm. We spoke with Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor who had been treating my mom years ago with the steroid shots (she doesn’t do them anymore) and he seemed to think I was a good candidate for them.

However, the second he touched my nose, I panicked and almost jumped out of the chair. This is when he stepped back and told me that maybe I wasn’t actually the best candidate for it after all. My mom and I looked at eat other, and I felt so ashamed and frustrated with myself. This type of treatment is not covered by my insurance, so I knew I was going to be wasting a few hundred dollars if I didn’t go through it. But I didn’t know how to control the panic! I was doing all I knew how to keep things in check but I just couldn’t do it. 

I honestly might not have been able to get them at all had it not been for the ENT who suggested that maybe I try some anxiety medication and come back later that day. He told us that if I was able to take something and come back then he would only charge the amount that he would have if we had just come in once.

So my mom and I went home and I took Ativan before heading back to the ENT office. I don’t typically take anxiety medication, but about a year ago around Christmas, I had a panic attack and thought I was going through anaphylaxis. When I got to the hospital, the doctors realized that all my vitals were fine and that it was likely me panicking. So they gave me Ativan and almost instantly I was better. They ended up giving me a few extras in case there was a time when I really needed it. This felt like one of those times! And it ended up working so well. 

I took the medication and came in about an hour after taking it, as my ENT had suggested. He wanted to make sure the medication really had time to get into my system before I came back. So I went back in, sat in the chair, and effortlessly went through the treatment. And now, I’ve had it done about three times total. It’s still a bit scary, but knowing the routine and how well it helps me afterward really helps me get through it better now. I still take Ativan, but I feel like I don’t need it as much anymore. I don’t know that this type of treatment will help everybody, but it certainly helps me so I wanted to share a bit more. 

When you first get to the office, you sit down in a big green chair (guess they have a thing for green lol). The doctor looks inside your nose and hands you a thin cotton cloth to hold under your nose. He then asks you to hold your breath and he sprays a decongestant into your nose. I don’t care much for that part, but any discomfort lasts a few seconds only.

Next, comes the numbing part. He puts numbing medication on a longish Q-tip like thing (from what I can tell) and he puts it inside your nose. At first, it feels uncomfortable because it goes further down your nose than feels natural. But it sits there for a few minutes so that you can "bake," as the ENT likes to say. After you’ve had your nose numbed for a bit, he pulls out the Q-tip like thing (also feels kinda funny but doesn’t last long) and I get the cotton cloth again to hold under my nose once more. He then gets the shots and injects them inside each nostril.

And weirdly enough, my nose never feels any different when it’s been numb, but then I never feel the shot either! At most, sometimes it stings a bit when I am numbed up but that only happened once for a second. After the shots, the ENT puts cotton swabs up your nose to help stop the bleeding.

The first time I got the shots was definitely the most difficult for me, but that was probably because I had no idea what to expect. The second time, which happened two weeks ago, was a bit easier. Probably because I knew to take Ativan before we went. But my third go-around, yesterday, was definitely the easiest. I wasn’t even nervous before I took the medication. I definitely felt the effects of Ativan the most this time though, so who knows if that has anything to do with the overall ease of the shots this time.

If you have really bad environmental allergies I would definitely look into steroid nose shots. It’s basically the same idea as the Flonase, but it’s injected inside your nose to help with the inflammation. The medication slowly works to keep the area inside your nose less inflamed. I still need to take antihistamines, but like I said my environmental allergies are crazy, so others may not. I don’t have to take as much though! I think the number of times that one gets the nose shots kind of depends on the person and what the doctor thinks. Treatment is pretty individualized.

The steroids are supposed to stay in your nose, but like anything, there's always the possibility that it will leak down to your throat or something like that. This happened the worse on my second visit. And not going to lie it tasted disgusting! I went to spit and there was some blood too, which also creeped me out a lot. But both of those things are perfectly okay and can happen at times. This last time it didn’t happen so I think it just depends on how swollen your nose is. 

After the shots, I am able to take the cotton out of my nose about ten minutes later and go about my day. There’s never even been blood on the cotton when I take it out either. Because I take Ativan, I have to have somebody else drive me, and I feel the effects for a little bit afterward. But I think if I didn’t take Ativan I would likely feel fine after. In the days following, I don’t notice a lot of differences except maybe a bit of a sore nose, but that only happened once. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the results of the shots. They help me a lot. And weirdly enough, they are a fear of mine that I am learning to overcome. Every time I walk in the office now, I hear myself telling my mom that I would NEVER IN MY LIFE get nose shots. Who woulda thought? Guess that’s just life!


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