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Use this Device if Needles Frighten You

Does your fear of needles makes it difficult or impossible for you to manage your diabetes? Do you have a child who is afraid of them? Many of us have this fear, but we now have a way to cope with it.

All of us who have diabetes need to draw blood regularly with lancets for our blood glucose meters and for A1C testing. Everyone who has type 1 diabetes and about one-fourth of people with type 2 need to inject insulin at least once a day. A growing proportion of us are injecting GLP-1 analogues like Bydureon and Victoza to help keep blood glucose levels in check.

But many adults and even more children don’t do this often enough because of pain. As a result, they needlessly suffer.


Now, an inexpensive device called the Buzzy can block that pain. Some hospitals are already using it, and you can buy one without a prescription to use anywhere.

Shaped like an impossibly large bee with removable ice wings, the Buzzy uses both high frequency vibration and an optional ice pack that work immediately and without any of the adverse side effects of drugs. The FDA approved the device a year ago.

When we make use of non-painful stimulus (like vibration or cold) to close the “gates” to painful ones, we prevent pain sensation from traveling to the central nervous system, according to the gate control theory of pain. Amy Baxter, M.D., is a pediatric emergency medicine doctor who knew about the gate theory and had wanted for years to help kids get through the pain of shots. Back in 2001 when her own son was four, she knew that she needed a quick pain reliever for him.

Her Eureka Moment

Her eureka moment came when she was coming home tired after an all-night shift, as “Do You Have A Wandering Mind?” relates. She noticed that the vibrating steering wheel of her car made her hands numb. Suddenly she realized that vibration could ease the pain of a shot. Later her husband suggested that using cold could help too, she told me.

After trying in vain to convince someone else to develop her idea, Dr. Baxter realized that she had to do it herself. She went on get six patents and to start a company in Atlanta, MMJ Labs LLC, of which she is the CEO.

Dr. Baxter has published 15 articles on pain and sedation in peer-reviewed journals, including two pilot studies of the Buzzy. I have also reviewed the full-text of five other published studies of the Buzzy in such journals as Paediatrics and Child HealthClinical PediatricsPain Management NursingInternational Journal of Nursing Studies, and Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing. The conclusions of these five studies were uniformly positive in supporting the use of the Buzzy.

Many of Us Fear Needles

The advent of the Buzzy is the biggest breakthrough in blocking needle pain since I wrote about “Fear of Needles and Diabetes” here more than nine years ago. Based on the ground-breaking article, “Needle Phobia: A Neglected Diagnosis,” by James Hamilton, M.D., I wrote then that at least 10 percent of us have that fear.

Subsequent studies, however, show that it’s much more common. One study in Canada of 1,024 children and 883 parents showed that two-thirds of the children and one-quarter of the parents had needle fears. These numbers are comparable to a U.S. study of 1,011 parents who reported that 70 percent of their children under 10 years had experienced needle fear, anxiety, or stress.

My Offer

Dr. Baxter sent a Buzzy for me to use. It sells for $39.95 and came with two AAA batteries installed, and it worked out of the box.

But because I use a Genteel Lancing Device to check my blood glucose, I couldn’t make use of it for fingersticks. I don’t need to inject anything, and my annual flu shot isn’t available until next month.

I did have an appointment with my dental hygienist during the course of preparing this article and I took my Buzzy along. But unfortunately she was too gentle for me to see if the Buzzy made a difference as she cleaned my remaining teeth.

This means that I have a practically new Buzzy sitting on my shelf. I am not a collector and dislike wasting anything. So, I am offering it to the first person who writes me that someone in his or her family has a fear of needles that’s making diabetes management difficult. It will make a difference.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • Debra at

    1. I know a teen with a needle phobia who might benefit from Bacillin injections for Neurologic Lyme, but can’t get past the needles. Would the Bussy help with that and where can we get one?

    2. I was going to order a Genteel Lancing device, but it says it is not compatible with my Freestyle lite meter system, much to my disappointment. I have that one because the drop of blood needed is the smallest and that means fewer wasted test strips for me at my alternate sites. I just can not prick my finger and it hurts too much when the nurse does it. Do you happen to know the meter that uses the next smallest or where to go to compare?

    • David Mendosa at

      Debra, you can buy the Buzzy from the company’s website at https://buzzyhelps.com/

      You have to have misread the website for the Genteel Lancing Device, because it is compatible with any and all blood glucose meters. It is not compatible with some lancets. Please call the company to confirm what I write.

  • Carol at

    I have fear of needles and get anxious every time I have to give my self a shot of byetta. Would love to try the buzzy. How can I get one.

  • Evelyn at

    David, thank you.

    I would use the Buzzy if it blocked the pain. I am so needle shy that it truly interfers with my managing my diabetes.
    Thank you for your generous offer. How should I get my contact info to you so it’s not public?

    Are you still satisfied with the Genteel Lancing Device?

    I appreciate that you cover such a broad range of topics of interest to people with diabetes, and that you write succinctly and clearly, and offer us useable information.

  • Steve Solomon at

    Hello David.
    Your articles are most interesting and informative! As for this “Buzzy”, would it help when I get my tri-yearly a1C blood draws at the doctor’s office? Thank you sir.
    Best regards,

  • Evelyn at

    I’m the one with needle fear that compromises my ability to manage my diabetes!

    • David Mendosa at

      Well, Evelyn, my offer of the free Buzzy is still available.