New device is all the buzz when it comes to distracting patients while getting stuck by a needle

November 02, 2023
A small black and red plastic ladybug device with a small ice pack attached
The Buzzy is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Photo by Sarah Pack

Outside of your cross-stitch obsessed grandmother, nobody likes needles. 

Kids especially hate them. So to find a way – ANY way – to make them less intimidating or scary, that is a win. Enter the Buzzy. Part ice pack, part vibrating ladybug, the Buzzy is a precious little garage door opener-sized device that uses numbing and distraction to take away some of the sting of those yucky needle pricks.

From blood draws to injections, the Buzzy can be utilized by just about any provider with minimal training. It’s easy; the kids seem to like it, and it actually works.

“I used it for my flu shot, and it really made a difference,” said Betsy McMillan, MUSC Children’s Health Child Life director. McMillan and her team have been touting the Buzzy as a part of the hospital’s emotional safety initiative. By focusing on fostering an environment of trust between child and provider, MUSC is slowly gaining the trust of some of its youngest patients. 

The Buzzy eases needle fear and anxiety and offers pain relief. The way it works is an ice pack that looks like little wings is connected to the “body” of the ladybug, and then the entire device is either slipped on the arm of the child or wrapped in place. The ice numbs the area for about 30 to 60 seconds before being slid slightly up the arm – “between the pain and the brain,” McMillan said – at which point it starts vibrating. 

“It’s kind of like a handheld electric massager but a little gentler,” she said.

Together, the ice and vibration momentarily distract and confuse the brain, taking the mind off what’s actually happening. 

“Next thing you know, it’s over,” she said. 

Sometimes the kids don’t want to look, and other times, they love being involved in the process. But they always get a choice. Which really is at the heart of what emotional safety is all about. Building trust. Involving the kids. Making them feel heard. 

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, eight out of 10 children have experienced some form of trauma from a medical encounter. Oftentimes, it’s basic things like not having a parent with them for something that might seem scary or not waiting for them to calm down before beginning a procedure.

“The whole idea – what we really want to be focused on – is that while curing them, we aren’t leaving behind any mental trauma,” she said.

Involving the kids in their medical journeys using a device like the Buzzy is such an easy gateway to building trust between the medical provider and the patient. It’s been such a hit, in fact, that McMillan said she knows of several parents with diabetic children who have purchased their own Buzzy devices and, in turn, made those daily blood sticks or insulin injections a little less taxing on all involved.

“It’s just so easy to use and having done it myself, I can honestly say that was one of the easier shots I’ve ever gotten.”