Use Buzzy if You Needles Frighten You

Patient Expert

If fear of needles makes it difficult or impossible for you or your child to manage diabetes, help is at hand now.

All of us who have diabetes need to draw blood regularly with lancets for our blood glucose meters and for A1C testing. Everyone who has type 1 diabetes and about one-fourth of people with type 2 need to inject insulin at least once a day. A growing proportion of us are injecting various drugs to help keep blood glucose levels in check.

But many adults and even more children don’t do this often enough because of pain. As a result, they needlessly suffer.

Now, an inexpensive device called the Buzzy can block that pain. Some hospitals are already using it, and you can buy one without a prescription to use anywhere.

Shaped like an impossibly large bee with removable ice wings, the Buzzy uses both high frequency vibration and an optional ice pack that work immediately and without any of the adverse side effects of drugs. The FDA approved the device a year ago.

When we make use of non-painful stimulus (like vibration or cold) to close the “gates” to painful ones, we prevent pain sensation from traveling to the central nervous system, according to the gate control theory of pain. Amy Baxter, M.D., is a pediatric emergency medicine doctor who knew about the gate theory and had wanted for years to help kids get through the pain of shots. Back in 2001 when her own son was four, she knew that she needed a quick pain reliever for him.

Her Eureka Moment

Her eureka moment came when she was coming home tired after an all-night shift, as “Do You Have A Wandering Mind?” relates. She noticed that the vibrating steering wheel of her car made her hands numb. Suddenly she realized that vibration could ease the pain of a shot. Later her husband suggested that using cold could help too, she told me.

After trying in vain to convince someone else to develop her idea, Dr. Baxter realized that she had to do it herself. She went on get six patents and to start a company in Atlanta, MMJ Labs LLC, of which she is the CEO.

Dr. Baxter has published 15 articles on pain and sedation in peer-reviewed journals, including two pilot studies of the Buzzy. I have also reviewed the full-text of five other published studies of the Buzzy in such journals as Paediatrics and Child Health, Clinical Pediatrics, Pain Management Nursing, International Journal of Nursing Studies, and Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing. The conclusions of these five studies were uniformly positive in supporting the use of the Buzzy.

Many of Us Fear Needles

The advent of the Buzzy is the biggest breakthrough in blocking needle pain since I wrote about “Fear of Needles and Diabetes” here more than nine years ago. Based on the ground-breaking article, “Needle Phobia: A Neglected Diagnosis,” by James Hamilton, M.D., I wrote then that at least 10 percent of us have that fear.

Subsequent studies, however, show that it’s much more common. One study in Canada of 1,024 children and 883 parents showed that two-thirds of the children and one-quarter of the parents had needle fears. These numbers are comparable to a U.S. study of 1,011 parents who reported that 70 percent of their children under 10 years had experienced needle fear, anxiety, or stress.

My Offer

Dr. Baxter sent a Buzzy for me to use. It sells for $39.95 and came with two AAA batteries installed, and it worked out of the box.

But because I use a Genteel Lancing Device to check my blood glucose, I couldn’t make use of it for fingersticks. I don’t need to inject anything, and my annual flu shot isn’t available until next month.

I did have an appointment with my dental hygienist during the course of preparing this article and I took my Buzzy along. But unfortunately she was too gentle for me to see if the Buzzy made a difference as she cleaned my remaining teeth.

This means that I have a practically new Buzzy sitting on my shelf. I am not a collector and dislike wasting anything. So, I am offering it to the first person who writes me that someone in his or her family has a fear of needles that’s making diabetes management difficult. It will make a difference.

See more of my articles about how to manage diabetes:

Fear of Needles and Diabetes

How You Can Avoid the Pain of Checking Your Blood Sugar

Gentle Testing for Diabetes