Needle Pain Matters
As a paediatrician, I never thought injections were a big deal; I’ve seen parents and staff roll their eyes when a kid is freaking out about getting an injection. You know, ‘deal with it’. I have taken care of children who died from vaccine-preventable diseases, and I used to think that any delay in vaccinations endangers all society. Then I had my own kids, and witnessed first-hand that while vaccines don’t hurt children, injections do. Like most of the 22% of adults who fear needles, my son Max developed a phobia after a horrible injection experience at age 4. This fear affected him every time he had to go to the doctor. I gradually realised that if I didn’t act he could go through adulthood avoiding medical care.
It makes sense that being held tightly and subjected to a painful injection could have a lifelong impact on complying with health care. When I tried to use numbing creams, one nurse said “that stuff doesn’t work, they need to get used to it”, and gave the injection outside the numb zone! I got mad at the system and myself. If I couldn’t protect my child and I’m part of the system, what parent could?
I wanted to come up with something that worked instantly that parents and patients with established needle phobia could bring and use even if the healthcare system wasn’t interested.
I knew that the body could stop pain naturally using something called “gate theory”. If you bang your knee and rub it the pain stops, if you smash your finger and shake it, it helps the pain, or if you burn your finger and stick it under cold running water it quits hurting.
I thought of cuffs of cold water, all sorts of messy stuff. Driving home from the hospital one day it occurred to me that vibration would block pain, but it wasn’t until my husband suggested frozen peas UNDER the vibration that it really made my kids’ hands numb to sharp pokes. And Buzzy was conceived.
Buzzy uses natural pain relief by confusing your body’s own nerves and distracting attention away from the injection, thereby dulling or eliminating sharp pain. Over the past 5 years my children helped test, build, and prototype Buzzy until we had a device that worked. They smashed cell phones, helped me use electric tape and elastic bands, and have served as my first and best advisors. We started with a hand held massager and frozen peas, and finally got to a cute bee with frozen wings.
From a scientific standpoint, I didn’t want to put it out there unless I knew it worked for other people as well as my kids. The Mayday Fund, a non-profit dedicated to the reduction of pain and suffering, sponsored Georgia State to do a research study in adult volunteers getting IVs inserted. Buzzy significantly decreased pain, and was more effective the more anxiety people already had. A trial in children needing IV starts in the emergency department also showed significantly decreased pain by child and parent report, and even increased IV success threefold. On the basis of this, we got a $1M grant from the National Institutes of Health to study whether Buzzy reduces the pain of immunizations, and hopefully can avoid the development of needle phobia.
How important is this?? Although needle pain from an injection may not seem like a big deal, needle sticks are the most common and most feared cause of medical pain in the world. Blood donation, preventative health care, and diagnosing serious illnesses like cancer are all impacted by fearing doctors and needles. Conversely, awareness and use of available pain control methods for children can result in years of improved health. Buzzy is now being used for dentistry, travel immunisations, fertility shots, and finger pricks, splinter removal, and flu injections! We’ve heard from parents who had considered stopping more effective injected or IV treatments due to needle fear who are now able to give their kids the best treatment due to Buzzy. We’ve even heard from kids… stories and letters that remind us that Needle Pain Matters…and because of that, so does Buzzy.
- Dr Amy Baxter, Buzzy Inventor