SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Ask a child which is scarier: a great white shark or getting a shot? Chances are, it is the vaccination.
Two local doctors have discovered a high-tech way to alleviate anxiety among child patients through Virtual Reality goggles and an underwater app; it's just what the doctor ordered at Sansum Clinic.
"Having nature scenes with virtual reality is a scientifically sound new approach to healing kids about their fear and pain about shots," said Dr. John LaPuma, with the Chef Clinic.
LaPuma and Dr. Mark Silverberg, a pediatric ophthalmologist at Sansum, call the pilot project "promising technology" for children at the shot clinic.
"In this era of pain addiction, it's really important to know that you have more control than you think with ordinary, easy non-pharmacologic measures to control pain," LaPuma said.
The approach is simple and effective. The Aquarium VR Eon app is downloaded onto the doctor's iPhone, which then snaps directly into the VR goggles. In an instant, the child is transported to another world.
A young boy by the name of Noah was our test subject. He strapped on the googles and instantly saw a school of fish and a great white shark swim by.
"Cool!" Noah said.
The idea came to Silverberg after his young patients gave him a bit of a complex over the years.
"I would be seeing a toddler who would instantly burst into tears when I walked in the room and then the parent would say, 'Oh, it's not you -- they just had their vaccines.'"
Silverberg said he contacted LaPuma because of his expertise in using nature as medicine. Silverberg said he also conferred with a different type of expert; his 14-year-old daughter, Zoe.
"When i was younger, I was extremely afraid of vaccines and my dad came to me with an idea to decrease pain and fear," Zoe said. "I decided virtual reality was the best method."
"What we were looking for was an immersive experience, something that would take children outside of the shot and more into a natural world," Silverberg said.
Both Silverberg and LaPuma said they've seen a 50 percent reduction in fear and pain in kids getting their vaccinations.
Pun intended, Virtual Reality technology may be a real shot in the arm when it comes to medical advances for children.