Needles and shots are not something children are exceptionally excited to receive. In fact, needle phobia is one of the most common fears of children, but now a pediatrician has come up with an innovative distraction for kids receiving immunizations, according to the Florida Atlantic University.
In order to distract children from the fear, anxiety and pain of shots, Chad Rudnick, M.D., affiliate professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, uses a virtual reality headset to mitigate the pain and dull the upheaval of tears.
Rudnick got the idea from an 8-year-old patient who came into his office with a VR headset. The patient put the goggles on his head, and Rudnick proceeded with the shot without a flinch.
“That’s when the lightbulb went off in my head,” said Rudnick. “It got me thinking whether this outcome was just a one-time incident or whether it would work again.”
Based on previous research, humans have limited attention, therefore if a person is focused on a stimulus other than the noxious stimulus, they will perceive the painful stimulus as less severe.
Rudnick put his theory to test and conducted a study using a 3D virtual reality headset and smartphone app that was inserted into the goggles. Children were then given the choice to ride a roller coaster, helicopter or hot-air balloon. Once the headset was in place, Rudnick proceeded with the shot and it was over in a matter of seconds.
The study participants ranged from ages 6 to 17 and completed a pre and post questionnaire evaluating their fear and pain level using the McMurty Children’s Fear Scale and the Wong-Baker pain scale. Parents also completed the questionnaire assessing their perception of the child’s fear and pain.
Results showed that anticipated versus actual pain and fear were reduced in about 94 percent of pediatric study subjects. Additionally, approximately 94 percent said they would like to use the VR headsets for their next immunization or shot. Parents also reported lower perception of fear and pain in their child while using the headset.
Most VR headsets cost about $50 and the smartphone apps cost less than $1 with unlimited use, posing an inexpensive solution to distract children while receiving shots.
“I hope this distraction technique catches on in other pediatric offices, because any method that increases the percentage of children vaccinated on-time and on schedule is critical in primary care pediatrics,” said Rudnick. “With many children crying, kicking and fighting in the exam room to avoid getting an injection, it is well worth pursuing further studies on the benefits of using virtual reality headsets. Moreover, this method could potentially reduce mortality and morbidity from vaccine preventable illnesses because children will receive their scheduled vaccinations.”