Free app distracts children who don't like needles

Trypanophobia – fear of needles – is an under-reported healthcare issue, according to Healthline Networks, a provider of health information services. People who are afraid of needles avoid going to the doctor, skip vaccinations, avoid flu shots and don't donate blood. But a new iPhone app, offered free as part of Healthline Networks' "Big Shots Get Shots" public health campaign, may help ease fears among children who don't like needles.

Needle phobia usually develops around age 4 or 5 after a traumatic immunization experience, according to Healthline Networks. "Kids today get so many more shots than they used to. A parent born in the '60s or '70s may have gotten six shots by age 6, but today their kids get up to 33," said Dr. Amy Baxter, a needle phobia expert quoted by the company in a release accompanying the campaign's announcement.

Fortunately, distraction is a good way of combatting needle fear. The iPhone app distracts children who are getting shots.

Former U.S. Surgeon General Rich Carmona commented in a prepared statement: "As Surgeon General, I saw the impact of needle phobia first hand. In a country where we spend more on healthcare than any other nation in the world, our metrics put us somewhere between 25th and 40th in terms of life expectancy, childhood vaccinations, maternal child mortality and things like that. We have to step back and ask, 'Where are we missing the boat here?' I think part of the answer is that many of our children don't complete their immunization series. Decreasing fear of needles can certainly help."

Healthline CEO West Shell added in the company's release, "The key to ending needle phobia is awareness, education, and action. Needle phobia must be addressed and it must be addressed on large public platforms. Fear of snakes or fear of public speaking doesn't kill people, but fear of needles does."