Headache related to mask use of healthcare workers in COVID-19 pandemic

Korean J Pain. 2021 Apr 1;34(2):241-245. doi: 10.3344/kjp.2021.34.2.241.


Background: It has been reported that a new type of headache may develop as a result of face mask use during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of this study is to investigate the clinical features of face mask-related headache during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: This is a cross-sectional study carried out on healthcare workers at the Afyonkarahisar Health Sciences University. The number of workers at our university was established. Sample size was calculated using the G*Power program. A questionnaire consisting of questions relating to pre-existing headache, an aggravation in headache, and de-novo headache was filled out by 3 neurologists with all participants.

Results: Data was collected from a total of 375 participants, after the exclusion of 5 individuals who refused to participate. Out of all participants, 26 (6.9%) used a filtering mask, 274 (73.1%) used a surgical mask, 75 (20.0%) participants used a combination of both masks. The number of participants with preexisting headache was 114 (30.4%) had pre-existing headache. Of those with pre-existing headache, 77 (67.5%) healthcare workers had reported an aggravation in their headache after mask use. De-novo headache was observed in 116 (30.9%) of participants. De-novo headache characteristics included throbbing in 17 (14.7%) participants and pressing in 99 (85.3%) participants. In addition, symptoms such as tachypnea, sleep disturbance, and fatigue were found to be significantly higher.

Conclusions: This study indicates that healthcare workers develop headaches due to use of masks during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Keywords: COVID-19; Eyeglasses; Fatigue; Headache; Health Personnel; Masks; Pandemics; Personal Protective Equipment; Sleep Wake Disorders; Tension-Type Headache.