Why is Needle Phobia Growing?

Needle phobia is an extreme fear of medical procedures involving injections or needles. For most people who acquire this fear, it develops around age 4 or 5 with a bad immunization experience About 3-5% of women and 1-2% of men have a genetic predisposition to getting light-headed or fainting, “vasovagal syncope”. While this can lead to an avoidance of needles, it starts out as physiology, not fear. Lots of Latin names drill down on aspects of the fear (trypanophobia, aichmophobia, belonephobia, or enetophobia), but if you have it, you’re not alone.

The incidence of adult needle phobia, ranked at 10% in a 1995 study, has been steadily growing. A study by Dr. Taddio in 2012 found a prevalence of 24% of adults. Similarly, a a 2012 survey by Target found 23% of those who didn’t get a flu shot avoided it because of the needle. For children, the incidence changed from 25% (Hamilton) to 63% (Taddio) — 252% increase in less than 2 decades. Our NIH research showed children with high needle fear were 2.5x less likely to start their HPV series than those with low fear. Fear of needles is a barrier to health.

What are the health risks of needle phobia?

As fear of needles has risen, public health implications are already being seen. The Taddio Study found noncompliance with vaccination due to fear in 7% of adults and 8% of children. According to a study of patients who DID go for travel vaccinations, 22% of adults fear needles enough to take risks with their health; the irony is that this study was DONE at a travel immunization clinic. What about patients who didn’t even go to the clinic to be available to ask? Studies from Japan to Thailand show that up to 75% of people do not donate blood due to fear, which affects our emergency safety system. Depending on the types and severity of the needle phobia, health risks may vary.

Directly, the vasovagal response can cause a sudden blood plunge of blood pressure in patients when exposed to sharp pain. Indirectly, the needle phobia prevents patients from making good medical decisions. While 39% of adults in one recent travel clinic study said they feared needles, again – surveying patients at a clinic is like asking people at a football game how they feel about football. The risk of bias is large.

51% of adults with Type 2 Diabetes delay starting insulin due to fear; 94% feel fear reactions every time they inject. (Aronson R, DIABETES TECH & THERAP 2012 14(8):741-7; Kruger DF Diabetes met 2015:8;49-56) If this is how a small needle injecting non-burning medicine affects adults, how about a burning arthritis injection in a child?


Why is it important to prevent needle phobia in children?

Protecting anyone from life-long needle phobia must start from their first memorable experiences with needles early on in childhood. Even in case of those who are genetically predisposed to developing needle phobia, factors other than the nature play an important role in the development of this condition. If parents and professionals intervene early on in children’s lives, it can help protect them from developing this health-threatening condition. The more injections we add, the more traumatic the memory and association with going to the doctors. IF we add more vaccines, we MUST add protective ways of decreasing the negative reaction to healthcare.

Vaccination Schedule
If you were born before 1983, you only got 6 injections for vaccines, and were too young to remember. Now over 30 are recommended at ages where it leaves a memory.

Needle pain management is one of the most effective interventions. During the first encounters with needles, needle pain management and distraction can protect the child from traumatic experience associated with medical procedures and the clinical environment and experience, and prevent the child from developing anxiety and even phobia later in her life.

The best interventions deal with both pain directly as well as fear and focus. Learning to distract oneself from pain is a lifelong coping strategy.


How is needle phobia treated?
Needle Phobia Graph

Buzzy® and lidocaine were offered to help increase compliance and were shown to help decrease needle fear over time. 

The blue graph is the initial pain or fear rating for a monthly Bicillin shot; the yellow shows the decrease with Buzzy® and/or lidocaine mixed in after 3 uses. At the end of the study, 43% still made Buzzy® a part of their shot routine, successful enough to continue the program. Multiple other studies have demonstrated lowered anxiety and fear for patients using Buzzy or DistrACTION cards with their needle procedures. 


How can Buzzy® help address needle phobia?

According to clinical research, Buzzy® Pain Relief can reduce IV needle pain by 50%; some studies have looked at both pain and fear. Used with DistrACTION® Cards and questions, Buzzy® can reduce pain to close to 0 (0.53 on a 10 point scale, Inal S.). The physiology of cold and vibration, called Gate Control, naturally blocks out the competing stimulation of pain. Controlling as many aspects of a medical visit as possible is one way to control your fear of needles. 

While many of our adult testimonials relate to Buzzy decreasing the vasovagal response, to date there has not been a randomized prospective trial.


How MMJ Labs addresses needle phobia

As a byproduct of developing Buzzy, Dr. Baxter realized the abrupt rise in needle fear, and constructed the multimodal model of pain/fear/focus reduction to comprehensively address the problem. IN addition to TEDx and TEDMED talks about the causes and consequences of needle phobia, Dr. Baxter presents research on the subject and writes scholarly articles. Contact us directly if you are interested in the subject, have a solution to share, or plan a research study.

Taddio, Ipp et al. Survey of the prevalence of immunization non-compliance due to needle fears in children and adults. Vaccine 2012;30(32):4807-12
ARmfield, J The extent and nature of dental fear and phobia in Australia. Aust Dent J 2011;55(5):368-77
Wright, Yelland et al. Fear of needles–nature and prevalence in general practice. Aust Fam Physician 2009;38(3):172-6

If your physician prescribes Buzzy® for a fear that is keeping you from health, use this form to file for Medical Savings Accounts: Click here to download the form


Overcoming needle phobia success stories:

It is a lifesaver!!! I am a diabetic and on meds to which I am maxed out on them. I have been prescribed Victoza which is an injectible but due to a really bad needle phobia I cannot take it.I cannot take insulin either because it’s also an injectible. My sugars were extremely high and no where to go with controlling it.Thanks to the Buzzy, I have been able to use the Victoza, keep my sugars down,and have lost a good amount of weight from the Victoza (from 167 to 151 in one week) and I feel great and my doctor is happy. I highly recommend this to anyone who has a needle phobia!!! 

I am giving total consent to use [the testimonial]. I have told everyone I know about it and have explained my situation to them to tell them how much the Buzzy® has been a Godsend to me. I was skeptical at first but I decided to give it a try and $40.00 seemed like a small price to pay for something that could potentially help. I was at my wits end and even knowing I absolutely needed to be on the Victoza I just could not force myself to do it again on my own. I have done it a few times but had a bad experience—-very uncomfortable and had to stop the Victoza once. When my doctor heard I wanted to get back on it again (after using the Buzzy® which she didn’t know about) she told a lot of other doctors at the clinic that by knowing me she thought there was no way I was going to stick with it. She told me herself the story about saying that to everyone on the last visit. I explained to her about the Buzzy® and how it’s helped me to be able to use the Victoza and she was ecstatic. I gave her the website and she is going to check it out and recommend it as well. I had also gotten close to the diabetes educator who had tried to help me and be supportive and she was disappointed but understood my fear and why I couldn’t. When she called me back and I told her about the Victoza and the Buzzy® she had more excitement in her voice than I did.She is also going to check out the website and recommend it to everyone (like me) that has a needle phobia.Your product has helped me not only tremendously but has helped turn my life around.Not only did I lose weight from the Victoza but my A1C went from an 8.0 (terrible) to a 7.2 and my doctor wanted me 7.0 or under so I am so close and she is over the moon that I was able to accomplish what I did. I would have never been able to do it on my own without the Buzzy! Thank you for inventing such an ingenious product! Sincerely, Janet M. 

Update: 7/17/2014 – “The latest health update is that my sugar had now dropped from a 7.2 to a 5.9 and my doctor is estatic about the even better change. I don’t know what I would do without the Buzzy! :-)” – Janet M.


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