Children aren’t the most receptive when it comes to needles, but virtual reality is helping change that. A new study details research into the use of VR headsets in the doctor’s office, specifically as a tool to distract kids from the mild pain associated with getting a shot or blood drawn. Turns out, the majority of kids stop caring about the needle when there’s a headset strapped to their face.
It’s important to make kids feel safe and calm in the doctor’s office, of course, but a child throwing a tantrum also presents a safety risk when attempting to administer an injection. Distraction techniques with toys and flashy lights are utilized in some cases, but aren’t terribly effective because the child can still see the doctor approaching.
Florida Atlantic University affiliate processor Dr. Chad Rudnick got the idea to test VR headsets after an 8-year-old patient of his used one during an immunization. The child didn’t so much as flinch when given the shot, ultimately prompting a study that tested whether these devices are an effective way to distract kids during vaccinations.
Rudnick and colleagues tested the method on participants aged 6 to 17; each was given a VR headset and the option of a virtual helicopter ride, roller coaster ride, or hot-air ballon ride. Once wearing the headset, each participant received an injection and was then quizzed about their pain and fear levels.
In total, a little over 94-percent of the participants experienced less of both issues and said they’d want to use a VR headset during future injections. This follows past studies that looked at using VR headsets in hospitals as a way to reduce pain medication usage by distracting the patient.