Posts Tagged ‘Gingerphobia’

Red-Headed Patients Pose Little Additional Risk for Physicians

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Physicians who suffer from gingerphobia – a fear of patients with red hair – can relax, according to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).  People with red hair have a bizarre medical reputation for suffering from excessive bleeding during surgery, a fact that is disputed by the study cited in the BMJ article.

Red heads have had many characteristics – good and bad – attributed to them, often without any grounding in reality.  In the Middle Ages, they were considered to be a symbol of moral decay.  Today, the hair color is associated with Ronald McDonald and plain speaking.  Comprising approximately two percent of the world’s population, people with red hair are sensitive to ultraviolet light and therefore more prone to skin cancer.  Nevertheless, they study found that there is no evidence to support claims that red heads bleed more during surgery or have a greater number of hernias than other people.

Red hair results from high levels of the red pigment phenomelanin and lower levels of the dark pigment eumelanin.  According to research, the recessive genes responsible for the color are active in the section of the brain that controls reaction to pain, as well as in the skin, hair and iris.

The authors of the article conclude:  “Despite sporadic reports to the contrary, the clinical implications of red hair phenotype remain questionable.  Red hair phenotype may confer an increased requirement for anesthetics but is associated with no greater operative risk than the remainder of the population.  It would seem that the reputation of people with red hair for having increased perioperative risk is without any basis in fact and should only be used as an excuse of last resort by surgeons defending problematic bleeding or recurrent hernias.”