this thing's incredible

This $6 Piece of Plastic Takes the Pain Out of Vaccine and IVF Shots

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Retailer

Nobody looks forward to getting a shot, especially not little kids. So when we heard about a tool designed to make injections hurt less — as discovered by Kristin Flood, a lawyer and the mother of two boys — we were intrigued. After some quick Googling, we found actual scientific proof this thing works, at least for kids. That’s great news for the under-5 set who are still getting their first, second, and third COVID vaccines. But it can also be really helpful for adults, as Flood realized when she started using it for IVF injections. To find out more about the ShotBlocker, we gave Flood a call.

I heard about the ShotBlocker, a little plastic device that makes injections hurt less, from my sister-in-law. She recommended it because, between my oldest son getting his COVID vaccine, my youngest son participating in the Moderna trial for kids under 5 years old, and my husband and I preparing for a round of IVF, we had a lot of needle events coming up.

The ShotBlocker looks like a small yellow horseshoe or a tiny bike seat. The back side of it is covered in short plastic prongs, kind of like a mini-porcupine. To use it, you press the pokey side onto your arm, leg, or wherever you are getting a shot. In my understanding, the prongs sort of confuse or distract your nerves in that area, so you don’t really feel the pain of the needle in the same way. It’s designed to be held against the skin with two fingers and pressed down pretty hard — not so hard that it hurts but hard enough that you’re pushing those little prongs into the skin. Then the needle gets injected through the U-shaped space in the middle.

We got our Shot Blocker in the mail just in time for my older son’s second COVID shot. With the first shot he screamed. He was really upset about it. Then for the second one, we brought the Shot Blocker to the doctor and put it on his arm. That second time he barely cried and kept saying how much easier it was, telling me that from then on every time he gets a shot, he wants to use the ShotBlocker.

I also brought it with us when my younger son got his first shot for the Moderna vaccine trial. He was very afraid of the whole clinical setting, and he was moving around a lot, so I don’t think it worked as well for him. Because he was only 3 at the time, they did his shot on his thigh. I have since learned, through personal experience, that it works much better on body parts that are more firm than soft, like the upper arm, which has more muscle than your stomach or a toddler’s thigh, and he’s got really squishy thighs. So depending on the circumstances, your mileage may vary, especially with younger kids.

Photo: Kristin Flood

A couple months later, I started a new round of IVF. We’ve done IVF a bunch of times over the years, but this was the first time I had the ShotBlocker. When you’re doing IVF, you do a lot of injections in your stomach, and you kinda get used to those. The needles are pretty small and thin, usually less than half of an inch. I won’t pretend to like them, but they’re not that painful. The more painful shots are the progesterone shots, which you start doing midway through a transfer cycle, when you transfer a fertilized embryo into the uterus. They go in at the top of your butt cheek up by your hip, and you have to inject the progesterone deeper, all the way into the muscle rather than just under the skin.

The needles for the progesterone shots are about two inches long and a lot thicker. They are frightening to look at. I think we ended up doing them every night for 12 weeks. I asked my husband to administer those because it’s scary and much easier for another person to get the right angle. Every night after putting the kids to bed, I would hold the ShotBlocker in place and he would stab me with the needle. I don’t want to sound like an infomercial, but using it helped with the pain to the point where I would barely feel the injection. I wish I had known about it for the first two IVF babies we had, but since using it through my latest round of IVF, I have become a ShotBlocker evangelist. I actually had to do progesterone shots on myself a couple times when I was traveling for work, and because of the difficult angle I couldn’t hold the Shot Blocker and do the injection at the same time. Those shots were a lot more painful.

When my oldest got his last COVID booster, he specifically demanded that I bring the “yellow thing,” which is what he calls it. He associates it with shots not hurting, which is a really big deal for him. He still yelped a little bit, but he also said, “That didn’t hurt as much because I had the yellow thing!”