Giving birth to a red-headed child is considered an honour in Denmark. The ancient Greeks demonstrated bravery by dying their hair red while in Poland, and passing three redheads is believed to be an act of great luck. Overall, it’s pretty cool to be a redhead. However, there is a significant downside: an increasing body of research shows that redheads are more susceptible to pain and also require more anaesthetics than their blonde and brunette counterparts.

From Urban Legend to Living Proof

Ginger Baby

This baby is genetically programmed to feel more pain, so he’ll need extra hugs and kisses at the dentist’s office.

For many years, the medical community collectively harboured the anecdotal impression that redheads required more anaesthetic than other patients. This was attributed to everything from the belief that redheads took more pleasure in complaining to prejudice against redheads within the medical community. Compelling evidence published in “Anaesthesiology,” confirmed the validity of a third possibility: that redheads have a different sensitivity to pain than the general population. In fact, while the anaesthesia community has long joked about the difficulty of anaesthetizing redheads, it turns out that the joke was on them. The study determined that not only do redheads require more anaesthesia than dark-haired people, but significantly more–19 percent, to be exact. Scientists attribute this difference in pain threshold to a variation in the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) protein, which typically results not just in red hair, fair skin and light eyes, but also in overall increased sensitivity to some types of pain, such as thermal pain. The physiological differences associated with the MC1R protein include increased sensitivity to opiates, as well as decreased sensitivity to other types of pain killers, such as Novocaine and other lidocaine injections which typically block pain. Scientists suggest that the MC1R gene variant interferes with brain receptors which regulate pain by stimulating the production of excess hormones. One of the reasons it took so long to definitively confirm this information is that natural redheads are extremely rare. According to “Time Magazine,” they comprise less than six percent of the northern hemisphere’s population, and even less worldwide: just one to two percent.

Pain Management for Redheads

Before undergoing a procedure which requires an anaesthetic, redheads should discuss with their doctor the likelihood that they’ll require increased amounts of pain medications. With open lines of communication, your doctor or dentist can adjust medication levels to suit your specific needs. Although an increased sensitivity to pain isn’t at the top of anyone’s list of desirable genetic traits, there is some good news for redheads. While research confirms increased pain levels related to temperature factors, as well as increased resistance to anesthetic, it also shows that redheads are less susceptible to stinging pain. In other words, that sewing needle pin prick won’t bother you nearly as much as it will the brunette next door. Joanna Hughes writes on all subjects, particular women’s issues related to fashion and style, as well as business matters, such as the importance of financial advisors for women.”