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How can you help a child who's deathly afraid of needles? Research suggests that decorating syringes with butterflies, flowers, fish, and smiley faces can significantly reduce anxiety.

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Researchers at the University of New Mexico's Health Sciences Center studied 60 patients who were randomly exposed to decorated winged needles or conventional needles and syringes. They found that decorated syringes reduced patient aversion by 68%, fear by 53%, and anxiety by 53%. In addition, children who watched TV during needle insertion reported less pain than those who didn't.


In a similar study, Italian researchers divided 69 children ages 7 to 12 into three groups and asked them to rate their pain on a numeric scale after a blood draw. The children's mothers also rated their child's pain. One group of children watched cartoons on TV during the procedure; those in another group were distracted by their mothers. Children in the control group had venipuncture without any distraction procedure. Pain-rating scores indicated that watching TV had a greater analgesic effect than active distraction or no distraction.


Sources: Analgesic effect of TV watching during venipuncture, Archives of Disease in Childhood, CV Bellieni, et al., online before print publication (, August 18, 2006; Patients with needle phobia? Try stress-reducing medical devices, Journal of Family Practice, SC Kettwich, et al., August 2006.