The pain of being a redhead

I saw this last week and was telling the eldest of my redhead boys about it, but then I could not actually remember any of the details.  I figure if I actually blogged about it, I’d remember enough to tell him about our shared pain.  Anyway, redheads experience pain differently:

A range of differences

An increasing number of studies show that redheads are differently constituted in terms of pain perception and body reactions. Research reveals that redheads:

  • are more sensitive to cold
  • are less responsive to subcutaneously administered anaesthetics [under the skin]
  • suffer more from toothaches and are more frightened of dentists…

In other respects, however, redheads turn out to be tougher than other people.

Research has produced evidence that redheads are less sensitive to stinging pain in the skin.

This was shown in tests where capsaicin, the active substance in chilli, was injected into the skin to produce pain.

“Our tests showed that redheads are less sensitive to this particular type of pain. They react less to pressure close to the injected area, or to a pinprick. They seem to be a bit better protected, and that is a really interesting finding,” says Professor Lars Arendt-Nielsen of the Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction at Aalborg University.

Pretty interest stuff.  Given that redhead #2 suffers from a neurocutaneous (i.e., brain and skin) disorder, I’m actually not all that surprised to think there may be a link between brain and hair color.  There’s clearly a lot of interesting genetic relationships we hardly understand.

Here’s all the Greene redheads:

Kim and I find it amusing that it almost seems like our red genes get diluted a bit with each child, as they go from most to least red.  Sarah does not even qualify as a redhead– brown with red highlights now– but she’s definitely getting more red in her hair as she ages.  I wonder if that means she’s becoming more sensitive to pain :-).

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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