Pilot study shows VR goggles reduce fear, pain in children during vaccination

By Heather Mack
04:05 pm

Pediatricians administering vaccines may try direct their young patients’ attention to colorful posters or don a puppet to get them focused on something – anything – other than the shot they were being given. But, this being 2017, a recent pilot study suggests doctor’s office child diversions may start going virtual.

In a study of 244 children at Sansum Clinic locations in Santa Barbara and Lompoc, California, roughly half of the children were given virtual reality goggles to view ocean scenes while getting their seasonal flu shot. Parents and clinicians for both groups were surveyed after, and reported the VR group felt less pain and fear than those braving it without.

Parents whose children were given the Turbot 3D virtual reality goggles reported that their sons and daughters experienced 48 percent less pain and 52 percent less pain, and the clinicians reported even higher – 75 percent less pain and 71 percent less fear.

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“We were fairly impressed with the numbers,” Dr. Mark Silverberg, a Sansum Clinic pediatrician, said in a statement. “They definitely show that the VR goggles facilitated the vaccination process for kids, parents and staff.”

Silverberg began toying with the idea of bringing a high-tech diversion into the office after noticing most of his young patients were often nervous because they associated any doctor’s visit with painful shots. Most of the time, crying toddlers would ask if they were getting a shot. He then talked about the problem with a tech-savvy young person – his 15-year-old daughter – who suggested the use of the VR goggles, and they then created the pilot project with the help of Dr. John LaPuma, a fellow Santa Barbara clinician and author who promotes exercising in nature for stress reduction. From there, they brought the experience of being in nature to young patients getting a shot.

Citing an American Academy of Pediatrics study that found three-quarters of parents delay or refuse shots because of concerns about their child’s discomfort, Silverberg wanted to find a solution to mitigate the serious consequences of putting off shots.

“It’s a shame to think of kids going unvaccinated simply because of stress,” he said. “We were looking for a simple, inexpensive remedy.”

Silverberg will present the results of the pilot at the World Summit of Pediatrics in Rome this June. 


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