Editor’s Note: Since their introduction steroids have received a lot of knee-jerk press, rumors and half-truths. While a complicated science, Kimberly Clark offers the following insight into their proper use.
When I received my PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors Association) certification in Adaptive Techniques to work with the handicapped the toughest part of the training was learning about the meds my students might be taking. Knowing the last dose received before a lesson, knowing how long before a next dose was recommended, knowing the possible side effects of not only the medication itself, but the symptoms indicating the medication was wearing off, add to this the required first aid to be administered if a reaction occurred.
It could be life or death at 11,000 feet on a snow-covered mountain because you were the first responder, period. A microcosm of an EOTWAWKI where professional medical attentions might not be available or reachable soon enough. Knowledge is power and I hope this take on steroids helps as it is complicated.
Medical steroids are designed to act like hormones to reduce inflammation. They’re also known as corticosteroids, and are different to anabolic steroids used by bodybuilders and athletes. That said, the graphic below show the confusion that can exist on the subject.
In a gist, steroids are human-made chemicals that mimic the natural functioning of hormones in the body. Ideally, they function like the hormones in the body whose purpose is to reduce inflammation. Though they are mainly manufactured for medical reasons, steroids, of course have also been used (or misused) to help athletes and body-builders to boost their body strength. However, other uses of steroids other than the medicinal uses are more often illegal (I will leave the discussion of professional sports vs sports as entertainment to others.) Though the steroids will not cure the inflammation in your body, they will help reduce swelling and ease the symptoms, that is an important distinction to understand, they treat the symptoms by inhibiting some of the bodies natural functions.
What Are Steroids, And When Should You Consider Using Them?
As mentioned above, steroids are human-made hormones that are introduced to the body to help solve various issues. Inflammation is one of the significant problems that you can solve through the use of steroids. Typically, inflammation is the body’s reaction to either injury, bacteria or infection.
To help fight the bacteria, the immune system produces some extra fluid to fight bacteria and viruses, thus resulting in swelling. For this reason, when you have cases where your body is reacting to such conditions, then you can take steroids to minimize the immune reaction.
There are different ways through which you can take steroids into the body. Some of these are:
- Apply to the skin as a cream or gel- this helps reduce inflammation on the skin
- Through the eye as eye drops – it helps reduce inflammation in the eye
- Through the mouth as tablets or liquids – helps reduce inflammation throughout the body.
The time taken for you to notice a difference after taking steroids may vary depending on your condition, and the prescription administered.
Circumstances Under Which You Can Take Steroids
Like any other drugs, steroids have their side effects that may be severe under specific conditions. For this reason, you can find a situation where your doctor will advise against the use of steroids. For instance, in case you have wounds on your body, steroids may delay the healing process.
Additionally, steroids may negatively affect other medical conditions in the body, such as mental health issues, diabetes, blood pressure problems, or heart problems. Therefore, in case you have any of these conditions, you need to seek competent medical advice as opposed to reading WebMD and self medicating.
If you are a person who uses contact lenses, you will need to stop wearing them and go to your glasses as a fallback, the glasses, while you are receiving steroid eye drops. If you have an infection on your skin, you will not be in a position to apply steroid creams or gel on the skin. Other skin problems such as acne, ulcers, and rosacea, among others, could also become complicated in case you use steroid creams in their presence. Therefore, ensure that you consult your doctor whether it is safe for you to use any steroid treatment to avoid future regrets, and always ask your physician if any of the meds he/she is prescribing is a steroid.
Taking Other Medicines Alongside Steroids and Vaccinations
Generally, you will come across drugs that you cannot take at the same time as they would cause some adverse reactions in the body. However, according to research, it is possible for you to take some steroids alongside other drugs. As with anything, there are medicines that could cause adverse reactions when taken alongside steroids. Therefore, before you start using any new drugs, ensure that you consult your doctor to make sure that you are on the safe side.
In addition, avoid other over-the-counter drugs when you are under a steroid dosage of a drug unless advised by your doctor. Concerning vaccines, for the whole time when you are using steroids, it is advisable to avoid the use of live vaccines; for instance, yellow fever vaccine. However, some of the vaccines will depend on the type of dosage that you are taking. In case you find it necessary to take any immunization, ensure that you do it before you start the steroid dose to avoid any infections. Be safe, always consulted a trusted medical professional.
Steroids and Fertility, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
According to studies, there are some steroid tablets such as prednisolone that can be safe for use during pregnancy. When taken during pregnancy, steroids are more often than not used to treat flare-ups for expectant mothers. However, in case you are planning to get pregnant and are still using steroids, it is essential to consult your doctor about that.
When you take steroids while breastfeeding a small amount of the steroids that will get into the milk and be passed onto your child. However, there is no research showing any risks of such amounts to the baby, but do your homework.
Steroid creams are safe for use when you are breastfeeding. However, in case you apply the cream around the breast, ensure that you properly wash yourself before breastfeeding.
Having an Operation or Using Alcohol
In case you have an upcoming operation, it is advisable to quit the use of steroids. However, speak to your surgeon or doctor about it before you stop taking the steroids as some surgeries may actually need you to be under steroid medications prior to the actual operation. In other cases, all you may need to do is to change the dose before the surgery, as always, the doctor needs to manage this. Therefore, in case you are using steroid medication drugs such as Triazide, ensure that your doctor is aware of any step that you intend to take. Such drugs will help treat edema and control moderate and mild blood pressure, which are some of the conditions that may occur in the course of the operation.
Concerning alcohol, don’t. After you start using steroids, it is advisable to stop or minimize the use of alcohol. Additionally, avoid taking many units of alcohol at a go. Instead, spread the units across several days and have some alcohol free days. This will minimize the chances of a severe reaction between alcohol and steroids.
Steroids are practical and powerful drugs that you can use to help solve several medical conditions in the body. However, like in the use of any other drug, you need to understand their medical application to prevent any harm to the body when you take them. Use the information above to understand all that you need to know about the medical use of steroids.