Children’s National Hospital studying whether increased headaches in kids is connected to virtual learning

Your child having a headache may not just be their excuse to try and skip class. Some doctors in the DMV said Monday, it could be related to increased screen time because of virtual learning.

“For my sixth-grader, there’s been a large increase in the migraines,” said Cara Fletcher, whose two sons attend Montgomery County Public Schools. 

Fletcher believes that increased screen time because of virtual learning could be one of the main culprits for not only their headaches but also causing a drop in their vision.

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“They start pretty much at 9 o’clock in the morning and they’re done at like 3,” she said. 

Doctors at Children’s National Hospital are looking into virtual learning and if it’s causing headaches or something more like severe migraines.

“Over the summer we had a lot of openings throughout our clinics but since school has started, we are fully booked and overbooking our clinics,” said Dr. Marc DiSabella, director of the headache program at the hospital. 

The hospital distributed a survey to all patients who were being seen within the system’s clinics throughout the DMV.

The following is preliminary data based on the first 36 responses:

• 44% of kids are using screens more than 6 hours per day.

• 47% of kids preferred school to online 

• 42% of kids said screens are making headaches worse.

• 41% of kids say they have more headaches since virtual learning.

• 38% of kids say they are more stressed.

• 46% of kids said this type of activity is affecting them negatively.

The hospital will be gathering more data in the coming months and eventually analyze and submit it for publication.

“A lot of them (children surveyed) are also noticing that upon taking a break they are having some reduction in the intensity of it but as soon as they start again they’re back in the woods,” explained DiSabella.

Some parents like Martha Larrazabal said that they are even rushing to buy blue light glasses which she claims have helped with reducing strain on her the daughter’s eyes, who is in the first grade within MCPS.

“We gave them a try and she hasn’t complained anymore,” explained Larrazabal, “so thankfully it wasn’t a corrective issue or dehydration issue or wanting to skip school, like she’s actually happy at school.”

DiSabella said that the glasses say may help reduce the amount of blue light that enters a person’s eyes but there is no actual scientific data to conclude that they work every time, for everyone.