PainRelief.com: What are the main findings?
Response: The multicentre study analysed 851 adolescents aged between 10 and 18, with 756 (89%) of children reporting headaches over the study period. Among these children, 10% reported new onset headaches over the pandemic home-schooling period. Over a quarter (27%) of children said their headaches had worsened, 61% said their headaches had remained stable and 3% said their headaches had improved.
Those who reported worsened or new onset headaches suffered from headaches an average of 8-9 times per month. Over half of children within this group (43%) used painkillers at least once a month compared to a third (33%) in the stable group.
The study found that headaches had a big impact on mental health and school achievements. Depression and anxiety scores were significantly higher in the worsened and new onset headache groups. These respondents also acknowledged that they had made less effort with their schoolwork and their academic achievements had fallen.
Prolonged exposure time to computer screens, a lack of suitable conditions for online learning from home, exams, weight gain, female sex, living ine a city, depression and anxieties about COVID-19 were all found to be risk factors for the worsening of headache symptoms or triggering new onset headaches.
Age, headache duration, depression, anxiety and COVID-19 anxiety are risk factors for increased severity and/or frequency of headache.
PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: More psychosocial support and limiting the screen time in adolescents would help to diminish the burden of COVID-19 pandemic on adolescents with headache.
PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: By the findings of our study we could conclude that the headache triggering by screen during online education may contribute to the feeling of decreased school performance, and thus anxiety and depression. However we can not rule out the possibility of the adolescents who are more vulnerable to the stresses and pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic and more prone to depression and anxiety have experienced worsening on headache attacks and become more sensitive to screen.
A comprehensive approach is needed to evaluate the effects of increased screen time and decreased social activity on headaches in adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A reassessment of adolescents would enable to interpret those findings more accurately after the pandemic is completely over, or at least the social life and the education system are completely normalized again.
PainRelief.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: This study reveals the necessity of readjustment on the online education system to be less devastating for children in case of a novel pandemic in the future. Moreover, this study emphasize the importance of preserving children and adolescents, particularly the ones with a headache triggering by screen, from electronic screen exposure
The Burden of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic on Headaches in Adolescents: Other Side of the Coin, presented at the European Academy of Neurology Congress 2022
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