Anyone who has been around growing children knows that ‘needle phobia’ is one of the most common fears that affect children from an early age. It has also been suggested that this fear then evolves as we grow older and eventually morphs into anxiety and other similar issues. 

However, Chad Rudnick, a paediatrician and affiliate professor at Florida Atlantic University, has devised a novel approach to distract children from their fear of needles through the use of a virtual reality headset.

A Closer Look at the Study

Rudnick is the first medical professional to lead such a pilot study and has published his findings in a reputable science journal called ‘Pain Management’. He says he got the idea when he was dealing with an 8-year-old patient who came to his office with a virtual reality headset.

According to Rudnick:

“The child placed the goggles on his head and as I proceeded to give him an injection, he didn’t even flinch. Even his mother said, ‘Did this really happen?’. That’s when the lightbulb went off in my head. It got me thinking whether this outcome was just a one-time incident or whether it would work again.”

Up until now, there have been no studies which have deployed VR technology as a means of distracting one’s attention when dealing with clinical procedures.

For the described case, Rudnick made use of a 3D virtual reality headset and a smartphone app that allowed children to get on a roller coaster ride of their choice during the procedure. Once the headset was in place, Rudnick was able to administer a single injection in as little as about 30 seconds.

The study comprised of participants aged between 6 and 17 and the results showed that the technique reduced the fear of pain in 94.1 per cent of the pediatric study subjects. Not only that, 94.1 per cent of the subjects also reported that they would like to use the VR headsets again for their next immunization.

Final Take

Since most VR headsets currently lie in the $50 range, the use of such innovative methods to pleasantly district children could soon catch on. Moving ahead, it would not be surprising to see many more paediatricians use this route to take care of little ones during their routine immunisation procedures.