I’m one of those rare people that actually enjoys getting my blood drawn. I know that sounds strange. But there’s something about the process that fascinates me, from the needle piercing the skin to the way the blood blasts into the tube.
If you’re getting squeamish right about now, chances are you don’t share my feelings on the subject. And you’re certainly not alone, as one of the most common reasons people don’t give blood is that they just don’t like needles.
However, there is one way to ease the stress of giving blood or receiving injections. If you’re hung up on the pain, simply averting your gaze might do the trick, according to a recent study.
Scientific American’s Rose Eveleth reports that researchers “simulated needle pricks by giving participants a little shock to their hand. As they did that, subjects had to watch three different videos. One was of a needle pricking a hand, another was of a Q-tip touching a hand, and the third was just a hand all by its lonesome self.”
In short, participants said that the pain from the shock was much more intense while watching the needle prick video than with the Q-tip.
That trick can’t work for everyone, though. A 2009 study in Australia found that 22% of people aren’t just annoyed with needles, but are downright afraid of them. And that number jumps to 79% for children age seven and up, according to a study conducted by Impulse Research Corporation.
Not good when 8.3% of the U.S. population has diabetes and requires insulin injections on a regular basis, and the CDC projects that the number of people diagnosed with the disease will jump 165% by 2050.
Luckily, researchers at MIT have developed a new injection technology that’s not only painless, but takes drug delivery to another level.
Drug Delivery At the Speed of Sound
This new system looks like a high-tech syringe. But instead of pumping the drugs into the body with applied pressure, the system combines a magnet and a conductive coil to generate the necessary power.
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The delivery speed reaches almost the speed of sound at around 340 meters per second, which can breach the skin without a needle. And it penetrates the skin through an opening no larger than a mosquito would make. If you’ve ever wound up with several mosquito bites without even knowing the insects were around, you can see how this process would cause zero pain.
That would be huge for getting, say, diabetics with an aversion to needles to take their meds regularly. Like one of the lead researchers involved with the technology, Catherine Hogan, says, “If you are afraid of needles and have to frequently self-inject, compliance can be an issue… We think this kind of technology … gets around some of the phobias that people may have about needles.”
The idea behind the technology isn’t exactly new. In fact, WSD Insider subscribers were alerted to a similar technology back in 2010 and were able to pocket gains of 29% on the company behind the breakthrough. (Go here for more information on how to upgrade your subscription to WSD Insider now.)
But this technology kicks it up a notch by allowing doctors to alter the velocity of the drug delivery. That’s huge, considering some people would require less pressure than others. As Hogan says, “If I’m breaching a baby’s skin to deliver vaccine, I won’t need as much pressure as I would need to breach my skin.”
This also means “the device can be programmed to deliver a range of doses to various depths – an improvement over similar jet-injection systems that are now commercially available,” says Jennifer Chu of MIT News.
Better yet, the process can also be used to remove fluid from the body. So eventually, it can work on getting more people comfortable with donating blood, as well.
Not to mention patients aren’t the only ones who would benefit from this technology. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that hospital-based health care workers accidentally prick themselves with needles 385,000 times each year,” says Chu.
Meaning the technology could be just as helpful for inept hospital staff.