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WiFi Headache - Myth or Health Risk?

Updated on August 23, 2017
Wi-Fi Alliance logo.
Wi-Fi Alliance logo. | Source

Are Wi-Fi Health Risks Real?

Wi-Fi is a relatively new technology that has taken the world by storm. There are wireless networks available almost anywhere these days. The idea of having high-speed internet access at all times is certainly appealing, but does Wi-Fi really have no downsides?

There are some news articles about teachers and students claiming they started getting headaches and skin rashes after WiFi was installed in their school. In fact, I know a few people who complain about headaches they say are induced by wireless routers myself. Many experts state that all WiFi health issues are just a myth, but there are a few others who warn that there might be some risks we're not aware of yet. You can find out more about how wireless internet works and participate in our WiFi health risks discussion below.

The Nature of Wi-Fi Wireless Radiation

Is wireless internet a health hazard?

WiFi access points (hotspots) and wireless routers operate in 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz radio wave frequency. This electromagnetic radiation is non-ionizing (unlike X-rays, for example) and is considered harmless. According to World Health Organization, exposure to WiFi and mobile phone radiation below international guideline limits does not result in any adverse health effects.

WiFi networks basically use the same frequency as microwave ovens (~2.4 GHz), although with a much lower output power. While a typical microwave will output about 800W, a basic wireless home router only uses up to 100 mW (20 dBm) - and that's the power level at the transmitter antenna itself (if you stand just 1 meter away, the exposure will be much smaller, according to the inverse square law).

Still, some people claim they get headaches and feel physically ill when around Wi-Fi equipment. There's even a term called EMF sensitivity for people who can "feel" electromagnetic fields and waves. The medical and scientific community doesn't seem to consider this a real medical condition, however.

Wireless Internet and Headaches Discussion

Can a WiFi router / access point really cause headaches?

The Shadow Side Of The Wireless Revolution

An interesting book about the potential hidden wifi health risks

The authors of this book are concerned about what effects the unstoppable spread of cell phone towers and wireless technologies are going to have on our health and on the environment. They seem to present a pretty solid case and include quotes from scientists and researchers.

Dr. Magda Havas, PhD is a recognized expert in the biological effects of environmental contaminants, including radiofrequency radiation and electromagnetic fields. Camilla Rees is a health and environmental activist.

Reduce the Signal Strength of Your Wi-Fi Router

Why reducing the transmit power of your router is a good idea

A lot of people use wireless routers these days. Nothing beats having internet connectivity anywhere in your house or apartment. However, many of these devices have their transmit power setting cranked up way too high. For example, I find that 10mW (a very low setting) is enough to cover my entire 650 square feet apartment, yet many people use 100mW and even more in the same apartment complex. Potential health concerns aside, there are other good reasons to reduce the TX power of your Wi-Fi router:

  • Security: if no one can access your wireless network outside your house or apartment, no one can hack it or steal your bandwidth.
  • Power: your router will use less electricity and also generate less heat, potentially increasing its lifetime.
  • Interference: less power means less interference with other wireless networks. Your neighbors will thank you!
  • Other benefits: boosting the transmit power too much can actually distort the signal and result in a poorer connection. There's no danger of this happening if your TX power is nice and low.

Wireless Internet Health Poll

Do you think wireless internet hotspots could cause headaches and health issues?

See results

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    • profile image

      Jod 23 months ago

      Took me 3 years to find out that I too gets Headaches from WIFI :((((. Some People thinks I'm CRAZY for just saying it :((((. I HATE living without WIFI, but the Headaches are NOT worth.

      I just use my WIRED internet and shut my WIFI OFF. For some of you are thinking or just have curioussity that WIFI is is giving you Headaches or Back Pain?

      I just wanted you to know " YOU ARE NOT ALONE " and " YOU ARE NOT CRAZY "

    • profile image

      Sarah 2 years ago

      I believe wifi is causing pain in back of my head and on left side of my head

    • profile image

      dnat 3 years ago

      I develop video transmission systems over 2.4Ghz networks and I can say that this is not a myth. Headache, orientation problems etc. It is really painful to work with that stuff.

    • profile image

      mandlik 3 years ago

      hello frnds, i installed my new router since 20 days, n i feel started heaviness on my head, this is not a good feeling, also interfere in my quality of sleep, there should be some idea to get rid of it and also have a internet, bcs i wnt net for my study porpose, i cnt switch it off

    • profile image

      spenyo 3 years ago

      Hi There

      I think that there is a definite relation to how we feel from wifi

      When left on overnight it cause me to have vivid dreams

      Don't know if anyone else has experience such things

      I make sure that I turn it off at night and then I don't get them

      There's definitely a link I think ?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I had headache for 7 days and I just thought that it coincides with the installation of WI-FI 7 days ago. Therefore I googled "wi-fi headache" and was surprised to see that many other had done the same search before mee, I am more convinced now that I read this lense and that so many people had commented on this article. I am defenitly going to get rid of it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I use wi fi all the time, and im calling bs on the placebo excuse. I had my router in the basement because i had heard about this wifi issue. Had forgotten about it really and just moved my router into the living room because of connectivety issues. Within 30 seconds of plugging it back in, i started getting the tingly temple and back of head symptoms everyone is posting. Which, by the way, were unknown to me as common symptom until i googled wifi headache just now. When i sit in my recliner the antenna is eye level about 12 feet away. Im in the country where no one elses wifi could cloud the issue

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have similar issues and wonder if I have high levels of heavy metals in my tissues. Metals in the body would induce electrical currents in the when exposed to magnetic fields. When I sit near a router and a data transfer is taking place I can feel a sort of vibration on my temples, and this is followed by inflammation on the left side. Which is where I used to hold my mobile phone predominantly when I talked.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Discussions like this make me very tired.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @Colin M, wow I don't like to use the term "Conspiracy Theorist" but in this case you've certainly earned it. Having WiFi is a personal convenience not a big business conspiracy. Think before you open that hole in your face you f*cking loon.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      For me it is specifically 5 GHz or 'N' routers - like apple ones. All other tech in my house is apple but every time I try an apple router, I feel immediate nausea. Hope 5GHz doesn't become more widespread!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: You are not alone. I almost feel the same, especially the pain on my upper back. However, my trouble make is not GSM, it's 3G network. I got to say, fast data transmit is really fascinating, that's why I have gooled so much on the topic of "radiation",hoping to find a perfect theory which proves that âI am simply worring too much, that 3G is perfectly heatlthy". However, I just kept feeling the same. Besides the pain on the back, it feels like I'm getting depressed for no reason. Not sad, not irratable, just repressed, couldn't get happy for anything, very weird.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: I just wanna say that, once the symptom is triggered, it will LAST FOR A PERIOD OF TIME! So if you kept switching it on and off, people will not be able to tell wether it's on. So if the experiment is carried out in your way, "placebo" will be the only reasonable explanation, however, it surely is not.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: country side or suburban, yeah, great idea!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I want to curse, can't sleep due to freaking wi-fi!!! usually by unplugging all electronics close to my bed will suffice, but it's getting worse......I had already unplugged my wi-fi, but my neighbors' or the complex's wifi are still actively working, hence my head is aching!!! F8#$&8@^ ahhhhhhhhhh

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I read this article just after i experienced the following:

      I had opened my ADSL wireless cover just to peek into its components.The router laid opened in my computer desk with the internal wireless antenna reveiled.

      I started feeling as if my brain was vibrating and was becoming heavy.Then i switched off only the wifi from the settings and to my amazement my head started feeling lighter.

      To eliminate th placebo effect, i told my sister to use the PC with the wifi on.She even started to complain about a heavy head. And even she felt light when switched off.

      so what to conclude from this?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Until a week ago when I got wifi I had never had a noticeable headache ever. This week I have had one every day. Coincidence? Hmm

    • profile image

      bettybindleflap 5 years ago

      @emmaklarkins: It's only an issue for people who suffer pain from these things Emma,i wonder if it does damage to people who don't feel pain as i'm sure it must be unsafe as lots of people do suffer,altho' still a minority as it goes...

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      For all the people complaining of headaches etc. Placebo is a powerful thing. I suggest doing a double-blind to see if it's really the cause. Stand with your back to the wifi router and get someone to switch it off and on in 2 minute periods. Note down if you feel sick or not sick on a bit of paper. Do this 10-20 times. I bet there is no correlation.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: i recently got a new phone and the pocket wifi function gives me the biggest headaches. Usually begins a few minutes after I turn it on. I'm ok with other wifi though... although I first noticed these headaches using one of the earlier telstra usb internet sticks. What do you think of this?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have always felt sensations when using my cell phone and when in close proximity to some one else's phone. I feel a mild pain in my neck and upper back, and I feel a tingling in my inner ears. Once a week I have to sit at a desk where I work that is wireless. During the day I can feel my neck getting tight. I start to feel a mild ache in my head, neck, upper back and chest. This may sound weird, and I'm not trying to be funny, but I even feel a mild stinging sensation in my genitals, mainly in the urethra. When I leave for the day the tingling sensations subside, but I will have a lingering ache in my neck and upper back. At the desk I am about one meter away from the antenae. We are certainly the minority when it comes to these effects, but I'm seeing that we are a pretty sizable minority. What scares me is that the industry wants to go all wireless. I am sick of having chronic tightness and muscle pain in my neck,shoulders and back. I've been with this discomfort for a few years now. I recently used an IPad for the first time, holding it in my lap, and I felt sensations in my legs and ankles. Wireless products are too big an industry with enough power to keep scientists hushed up regarding the effects. How long did it take before the surgeon general's warning was put on a pack of cigarettes?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I get headaches after just a few minutes exposure to wifi. Colleagues were disbelieving and tried to catch me out, e.g. telling me wifi if off when it wasn't but 100% off the time I was able to tell them otherwise. They soon became convinced and we are now a wifi free zone and almost everyone has removed wifi from their homes. If a few minutes exposure can cause headaches in a percentage of people then what damage is a lifetime of exposure going to do - or more to the point how short will a "lifetime" be to a generation exposed from birth! People who leave wifi on 24/7, especially with young children in the house. are irresponsible, IMO. P.S. If anyone was wondering, it goes without saying that I do not use a mobile phone and don't get me started on the horrors of DECT phones.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I wasn't having headaches, but severe problems with blood pressure fluctuating, chest pains, shortness of breath. Then I started having this irritating tingling and itching in my arms and legs after sitting at my computer desk for long periods of time. Felt like ants crawling on me. I got an email from a friend about this wifi thing and the more I read it, the more I realized they were talking about the same symptoms I was having. I immediately took my wifi router off my desk, turned it off and went back to the ethernet hookup on my computer. My son had installed the wifi about two years ago to be able to download games on our Wii, so it wasn't anything I really needed to use. But my health problems began shortly after the installation of the device. I am still having some problems, but it has only been 48 hours since I took it down, it will be interesting to see how much more improvement I have after some time has passed. My blood pressure and pulse are already down 20 points.

    • profile image

      bettybindleflap 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Yes i agree its very scary for the next generation.I was on a train some weeks back and a guy was sat playing games on his phone which was held right on his tiny baby's head who was in a sling!! i so wanted to say something to him but people don't know or haven't heard/read what their phones could be doing,and wouldnt beleive it probably any way.I went to my Doctor about the pains from mobiles and she stared at me like i'd just said i live on the moon! but it does feel like that in a way,feeling so alien from the vast majority who dont suffer,except my Daughter who does and wifi makes her physically sick!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I get awful pricking and stabbing pains near Blackberries paticularly but most mobile phones affect me.My daughter is sensitive to them too and wifi makes her very nauseus and physically sick if she somewhere with it on for a long time! It makes us very miserable and it's a nightmare being on a bus or train as everyone has their phones out !!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I got it bad and I feel it came from having it in the other room next to my bed room. I almost lost my job by complaining about the fog, eye, and head aches I was having at work. They sent me home and I had to eventually go see shrink. I am so pissed off about this. I was told not to run from it or jump when I feel it. All the managers have two blackberry phone radiating from their pockets and i can feel the waves of energy pounding my head when they walk up to me.I was told that I'm scaring them. The shrink spoke up for me and it saved my job. I wish someone or a doctor would help us that have to put up with this all day long. I have to take medication now and only helps my burnt eyes from using the wifi computers. I would love to help someone like me but I don't have any answers to save myself.... all I can say is that the next generation of babies and new health issues will wake people up before its to late...

    • profile image

      ideadesigns 5 years ago

      Gosh what a topic! I had read up on this before thanks for making this lens. I wonder if I should turn off the wifi at night... Very interesting thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I can almost bet my life, that the wireless router and phone is giving bad headaches, i cant sleep at night without switching them off.. its like my brain is in a microwave (i can feel the vibrations/waves in my head). recently i suffered bells palsy, i blame wireless signals... my ears/brain is soo sensitive i can pick other peoples signals at night when all is silent... its like someone pointing lasers at my ears/head.. i think i need to move to a country side or 3rd world country to survive

    • JohnMichael2 profile image

      JohnMichael2 5 years ago

      I have no idea, but this headache has been with me all day...

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      It took me 5 years to figure out my home wifi was giving me horrible headaches. I have the wifi setup in my husbands home office (in the closet). My home office is setup in the spare room next to his office. Whenever I'm in my office I get a pretty bad headache...sometimes I can feel nauseous too. It's awful. It got to the point where I just stopped using my home office. We also had a wifi repeater setup in our family room. I would not experience as many headaches there. I think the repeater isn't as powerful as the main wifi box. I had always suspected my headaches were from the wifi but didn't fully figure it out until I went on vacation where the vacation home I rented had the wifi setup in the kitchen. Every time I went in the kitchen...BAM...splitting headache. We finally turned off the wifi and the rest of my vacation was headache free. I feel pretty foolish that it took me years to figure it out. Now, at home, we abandoned the wifi and are back to using ethernet. So far, no headache. I'm a little worried about 5 years of constant exposure has done to me. We rarely turned off the wifi at home. Scary.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Just because you and/or perhaps anyone you know does not suffer from WIFI RF does not mean it cannot affect other people. You're opinion is short sighted. if someone is experiencing adverse effects and they turn off or remove themselves from the source...headache gone....seems elementary. It took me a few years (sad to say) to figure out wifi was my problem. imagine headaches for 3 to 4 straight years. i finally switched back to ethernet and i've been headache free. now i just need to figure out how to get far enough away from the wifi box at work. there's one 5 feet away from my desk and it's killing me!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      If it were possible to be allergic to wifi, or have any other adverse health effects from it, then wifi would really be among the least of your worries. There are other EM fields we are exposed to on a daily basis that are much more powerful and pervasive than simple wifi. Again, if wifi could cause adverse health effects then you've got bigger things to worry about.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Many people have nagging complaints -- headache, sinus, sore throat, short attention span -- that they just put down to stress or poor eating habits when it could be wi-fi signals that are

      muddling your bain. European countries have quicker to ban it than we have.

    • emmaklarkins profile image

      emmaklarkins 6 years ago

      Interesting topic. I didn't know this was an issue!