For many people, electronic devices are a convenient part of everyday life. They allow you to do things like browse the internet or microwave food.
Some people, however, believe they’re allergic to radiation that’s emitted from electronics. This perceived condition is called electromagnetic hypersensitivity or electrohypersensitivity (EHS).
It happens when someone feels that they’re extra-sensitive to electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Often just referred to as radiation, EMFs are released by electronic devices like Wi-Fi routers, computers, microwave ovens, and other home appliances.
According to people who say they have EHS, exposure to EMFs causes symptoms like:
It’s thought that the first reports of EHS occurred in the mid-1900s. The former Soviet Union said that radar technicians and military technicians working with radio experienced EHS, then known as “microwave syndrome.”
The name “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” first appeared in 1991. Since then, many people have said they have EHS, especially as electronics have become more popular.
Despite these reports, EHS is not a recognized illness in the medical field. Studies have failed to find a strong clinical relationship between EMFs and the reported symptoms. Additionally, objective criteria for diagnosing EHS is lacking.
As a result, EHS is a self-diagnosed condition. Let’s look at what the science says about the condition and how it’s treated.
EHS is a controversial topic in the medical field. Currently, there’s no evidence that links EMFs and the perceived symptoms of EHS. There’s also no reliable research explaining how EMFs may cause such symptoms.
According to the researchers, studies suggesting that EMFs may cause negative symptoms had various limitations. This included issues like failing to screen participants for conditions that may cause EHS symptoms or unreliable statistical analyses.
Additionally, recent studies have found that people are unable to identify actual EMF exposure.
In a 2018 study, people with self-diagnosed EHS were exposed to EMFs from mobile and radio systems, as well as sham (fake) signals. The participants reported more symptoms when they thought each station was on — which suggests they were unable to tell when they were exposed to EMFs.
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Some scientists also think that people cope with preexisting underlying conditions by believing they have EHS.
Some people report being hypersensitive to EMFs from Wi-Fi. However, Wi-Fi allergies are not real. There’s no strong evidence that proves people can be allergic to Wi-Fi signals.
What’s more, research hasn’t found a clinically sound relationship between EHS symptoms and Wi-Fi.
The purported symptoms of EHS are nonspecific and range in type and severity. They may include:
- skin issues
- musculoskeletal pain
- sleep disorders
- mood issues
- memory difficulties
- trouble concentrating
- feeling hot in the face
Some people who say they have EHS say these symptoms are caused by specific objects, like smartphones or computers.
Symptoms due to EHS have been ruled out by research, though. Studies haven’t found a connection between EMF exposure and the symptoms above. Instead, scientists speculate that symptoms of EHS may be due to undiagnosed physical or psychological conditions.
Because EHS isn’t an official diagnosis, there’s no standard treatment for the condition. Still, a doctor can do several things to ease your symptoms.
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Treatment of underlying conditions
A doctor will likely start with a medical evaluation to learn more about your symptoms. The goal is to detect and treat any disorders that might be causing your symptoms.
In addition to asking you questions, the doctor will do a physical exam and record your medical history. They might also order blood tests or refer you to a specialist.
You may be asked to meet with a mental health professional. They can identify and treat underlying psychological conditions that may be contributing to your symptoms.
A mental health expert can also provide the following to help you manage your thoughts about EMFs:
- cognitive behavioral therapy
- exposure therapy
- self-help groups
Environmental factors in your home and workplace may lead to perceived EHS symptoms. Consequently, you might be asked to modify your environment in these areas.
- reducing indoor air pollution by getting a dehumidifier, cutting back on smoking, or something else
- decreasing excess noise
- improving poor lighting
- adding ergonomic elements
EHS is a self-reported condition that hasn’t been proven by science. It’s defined by unpleasant symptoms, like headaches and pain, triggered by exposure to electronic devices.
Recent research has found no evidence that EHS exists. Some scientists think people have negative symptoms because they believe electromagnetic fields are harmful.
It’s likely that such symptoms are due to underlying physical or psychological disorders. Treatment for perceived EHS may include treatment of underlying conditions, therapy, or environmental changes.