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October 8, 2020

Steroid Shots and the Culture of Instant Gratification

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Ochsner Clinic Foundation, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • 2Associate Editor, JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Published online October 8, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2020.3413

The time is 6 pm on a Friday. As you leave your workplace, the head cold that you have neglected all week is now declaring itself a priority. Fatigue, nasal congestion, and a feeling of pressure in your forehead are mounting and only transiently relieved by an over-the-counter decongestant. Fearing these symptoms may become intolerable during the oncoming weekend, you head for a nearby urgent care facility. There a clinician validates your suspicion of an acute upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) and orders the treatment: a corticosteroid shot. Within moments of receiving the intramuscular injection your congestion wanes, the headache vanishes, and your energy level skyrockets. Adrenaline flowing, you exit the clinic and head homeward, fortified and grateful.

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