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When Your Favorite Things Aren't Needles, Flowers Could Help

December 14, 2018 By Michael London

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Here at Renown Health our habit of scanning the scientific literature sometimes leads to unexpected treasures. If you hate getting a shot and needles scare you, there's good news.

Did you know that painting decorations on needles make people like them better? A  lot better.

This discovery is not likely to show up in an RHP product, because we don't use needles, but it might help someone you know who hates them. 

Needle aversion, it turns out is a serious medical concern. The DSM-IV bible of psychiatric terms now lists aichmophobia as a recognized diagnosis. It's also called belonephobia or trypanophobia. Use that in a conversation to impress your friends!

Here are some interesting things we learned about needle phobia:

                     In some cases it's genetic—that probably applies to 4% to 10% of the population. For these people, it's definitely not “all in their heads”.

                     Classic needle phobia caused by a bad experience affects most young children, 20% to 50% of adolescents, and 20% to 30% of young adults.

                     About 40% of all adults have significant anxiety about needles

                     One in every five people with a full-blown needle phobia avoids getting medical treatment, including flu shots, as a result.

                     People who pass out at the sight of a needle are suffering “vasovagal reflex reaction”. They faint because their blood pressure drops drastically. Interestingly this response rarely occurs in children under 10.

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Dr. James Hamilton of Duke University in Durham, NC, has studied needle phobias for years.  He has found 63 symptoms related to it, including transient psychosis, combativeness, random motor movements, rolling eyeballs, involuntary loss of bowel or bladder control, seizures, clenching of the jaw muscles, loss of responsiveness and transient coma.

Hamilton himself has the phobia. So do his brother, uncle, and two of his first cousins. They're all doctors.

But as promised earlier, there might be help. Six researchers at the University of New Mexico decided to see whether decorating syringes and butterfly needles would make a difference.

And how! They tested their theory on sixty patients. The mix was two-thirds female, one-third male with slightly more than half of them adults, 41% children. That represents the typical population that walks into an outpatient clinic.

For patients who got shots from decorated syringes, their aversion scores fell 79%. Their fear dropped by 53%, and their anxiety decreased by 51%.

The most effective design was pictures of musical notes. Flowers were next. Smiley faces also worked, but not as well as the suggestion of a song.

Results with butterfly needles—the kind used with IV's—were similar. In this case, the researchers literally decorated the needles with life-size butterfly designs. Again fear and anxiety fell by 53%.

You won't find decorated needles at your local doctor's office yet. But results like these suggest they could show up sooner rather than later.

Until then, thousands of children and adults have turned to Buzzy, a device that seems to be quite effective in reducing the pain and fear. It combines coldness and vibration to reduce pain at the injection site. For children, parents can even order Buzzy kits that come with distraction cards to divert attention.

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