A new phenomenon of mask induced headaches has resulted in a “significant increase” in the number of people attending hospital A&Es due to the pandemic, a new study shows.
Doctors at Limerick University Hospital found that there was a 2.9 fold rise from 113 people in 2019 to 329 last year in the number of patients presenting with headaches to the acute medical unit.
They highlighted that there was no statistically significant rise in CO2 levels from 23.318 in 2019 to 23.07 last year which is a primary cause of people suffering from headaches.
Study co-author Dr Roz O’Byrne said that there was no rise in average CO2 levels from 2020 to 2019, “which we believe is an important message to combat the spread of fake news surrounding mask wearing".
The study titled, Significant Increased Headache Presentations to the Acute Medical Unit Coinciding with Universal Masking, in this month’s Irish Medical Journal highlights that Covid-19 presented significant challenges in provision of acute medical care.
“Our institution adapted by reconfiguring the acute medical unit (AMU), with direct triage of all medically stable patients to AMU from ED. Coinciding with this reorganisation, self-imposed mask wearing had seen exponential increases, with month on month increases seen internationally in the proportions wearing face masks,” said Dr O’ Byrne.
“There is good evidence that universal masking can help reduce the transmission of Covid-19 infections, but despite this there have been concerns in the media that there have been increases in the proportion of people suffering from headaches, with hypercapnia the putative mechanism behind this reported increase.
“We sought to examine temporal trends in headache presentations, and to examine if there was any change in CO2 levels among patients with headaches.”
A prospectively maintained logbook was reviewed for the study. All patients presenting to the AMU with headache between June 2020 and August 2020 were included and compared. This time period was after the Irish National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) recommendations for the use of face coverings in situations where physical distancing is challenging.
“We compared a similar time period of June 2019 and August 2019, to account for seasonality in presentations to the AMU.We found that in the two corresponding time periods there was a 2.9 fold rise in the absolute number of patients presenting with headaches to the acute medical unit,” added Dr O’Byrne.
“We believe this is an important message to help combat damaging misinformation on social media platforms. Promoting community mask wearing is important, as there is compelling evidence that we have little to lose, but potentially a lot to gain
“There may be fluctuations in public health mask wearing recommendations in the future, and if routine mask wearing is ever reintroduced after a period without widespread use, clinicians should be aware of the association between the introduction of mask wearing and increased headache presentations”.