Health

Honest, You Won't Feel a Thing

By Maia WeinstockJan 1, 2002 12:00 AM

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Blood is often in short supply at American hospitals, which need about 32,000 pints of RED blood cells a day to perform surgeries and treat victims of accidents and disease. Although people respond eagerly in times of crisis—Americans gave about three times as much blood as normal in the four days following the September 11 attacks—red blood cells last for only 42 days and must constantly be replenished. So researchers at Ohio University have developed an audiovisual treat to help convert squeamish first timers into blood-bank regulars. After giving blood, people often report faintness, dizziness, and nausea—symptoms that are at least partly stress induced. Psychologist Christopher France of Ohio University and his colleagues tried to alleviate these effects by having a group of donors wear headphones and 3-D goggles displaying pleasant scenes (such as a travelogue through Paris) while they gave blood. Afterward, the subjects filled out a questionnaire to gauge their physiological reactions. Not surprisingly, people who said they were bothered by seeing or knowing details of the bloodletting benefited the most from the distraction. "If we can reduce the severity of common side effects, they'll have more pleasant experiences and want to come back," France says.

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