Pediatricians are seeing an influx of headache complaints since August. 

With at least half of students across America participating in virtual learning, pediatricians are seeing record numbers of children grades K-12 suffering from headaches. Many parents are pointing at increased screen time due to remote learning as the culprit.

Doctors at Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., are taking a look at whether or not virtual learning could be to blame—as well as digging into whether or not the headaches are run-of-the-mill or something more severe, like a migraine. 

The director of the headache program at Children's National Hospital, Dr. Marc DiSabella, shares that the clinic had an average patient load during the summer. However, after school started this past August, the clinic saw an influx and overbooking of patients coming in because of headaches.

child using computer

In a survey that was released by the hospital, doctors looked at how virtual learning played a role in the headaches. Though the survey is still underway, the preliminary findings (a sample of 36 responses) included the following: 

  • 44% of kids are using screens for more than 6 hours per day.
  • 38% of kids say they are more stressed.
  • 42% of kids said screens are making headaches worse.
  • 47% of kids preferred school to online learning.
  • 41% of kids say they have more headaches since virtual learning.
  • 46% of kids said this type of activity is affecting them negatively.

"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," Dr. DiSabelle said. 

How to Help Your Child If They Are Suffering From Headaches

If your child is suffering from headaches because of virtual learning, there are some things you can do to help. Here are some methods parents of K-12 students have turned to and found success with. 


1. Buy Blue Light Glasses

Blue light glasses sales have been on the rise, and for good reason. The manufacturers of these glasses claim that their glasses can filter out blue light. This blue light is often seen as the culprit for eye strain and headaches. 

2. Move Your Monitor Back 

Much like you don't want your child sitting right in front of the television screen, you don't want your child sitting right in front of their computer monitor. Doctors suggest setting the monitor at least an arm's length away from your child. If your child's screen is too small, then hooking it up to a larger monitor can help with eye strain. Just be sure to keep the monitor at an appropriate length. 

3. Use the 20/20/20 Rule

The age of Zoom and digital meetings has brought about the now-popular 20/20/20 rule. This rule stipulates that you should take a break from the monitor every 20 minutes and to look at an object that is at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. By regularly doing this, you are giving your brain and eyes the break they need. This break applies to looking at a monitor and activities like reading and studying that require intense concentration.

4. Modify Your Display Settings

It's important to change your monitor display settings so that your eyes don't get overworked. Most computers have some sort of "warm light" or "dark" setting. These help to limit your eye strain. If your computer does not have these settings, then turning down your monitor's brightness can help. 

5. Place Light Sources Behind Your Child

Any additional light sources in your child's face can cause additional eye strain and headaches. For this reason, try and place necessary light sources behind your child, not in front of them. If your child needs to brighten up their face on the screen, then sitting in front of a window out of direct sunlight can help. 

Has your child suffered from headaches and eye strain because of virtual learning? Let us know any tips you have used to help limit this latest nuance of 2020.