Research published in the October edition of the Irish Medical Journal has linked mask-wearing to an almost three-fold rise in people presenting with acute headaches to University Hospital Limerick.
The authors, researchers at the hospital, said that the findings may represent a “new phenomenon of mask-induced headaches”.
The study also found there was no rise in average CO₂ levels in patients between 2019 and 2020 – which they said was an important message to combat misinformation.
Researchers found a total of 329 patients presented at the hospital complaining of severe headaches between June and August 2020 — up from 113 the previous year. This represented a “2.9 fold rise in the absolute number of patients presenting to the acute medical unit”, the study said.
The average age of patients presenting was 47 years, while just over six in 10 patients were females.
The study said that healthcare workers had been demonstrated to develop personal protection equipment- associated headaches – and that existing headache disorders were also found to be exacerbated.
Given the study’s findings the authors said they believed the findings for healthcare workers to be “a phenomenon for the general population as well”.
Researchers said mask-induced headaches might be explained by several factors including pressure from tight-fitting masks or ear loops or potential changes in their upper airway conditions.
They also noted that recommendations for public health measures should be aware of the “association between the introduction of mask wearing and increased headache presentations”.