When it comes to steroid drugs, doctors know that they can cause negative side effects like weakened immunity. However, how long your immune system is compromised after steroids depends on a variety of factors including the type and dosage of steroid drug you take and how long you took it.
Short courses of oral steroids such as prednisone can suppress the immune system for only a few days. But long-term steroid use can reduce the immune system’s function for weeks or even months. It can make you more susceptible to infections and illnesses and delay wound healing. In addition, it increases your risk of developing autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
The immune-suppressing effects of steroid drugs can also increase your risk of having a serious mental health problem. People who use steroids are more likely to develop a psychotic illness, which is when you have symptoms such as believing things that aren’t true (delusions) and extreme feelings of mistrust or fear. They’re also at higher risk of using other drugs such as alcohol and cocaine, which can further lower their immune system.
If you have a spinal steroid injection, it’s important to talk to your doctor about when you can have certain vaccinations. For example, it’s not recommended to have a COVID-19 vaccine right after you get a steroid injection. This is because the COVID-19 vaccine works by giving you a small dose of the disease and then making you immune to it. But, if you’re already sick with COVID-19, a steroid injection might help lessen your immune response and reduce inflammation so your body can fight the virus more effectively.