You may have heard rumors about redheads experiencing pain differently, or even had an experience yourself. Let’s dive into why that is and what’s really going on with redhead pain sensors.
It all starts with the MC1R gene
Redheads have a gene called MC1R, this is what gives us our red hair. To have natural red hair you must carry the MC1R gene, which is a mutation in the melanocortin 1 receptor on chromosome 16. Not much is known about exactly why this gene mutation causes a difference in pain perception, but it could be due to the way redheads’ brains process pain.
Knowledge is power: redheads do need more anesthesia, need less opioids, etc.
The pain process for redheads is obvious when it comes to things like anesthesia as well as pain medication. Redheads on average need about 20 more anesthesia to be sedated than their counterparts. Additionally, this applies to topical anesthetics as well, such as the numbing medication used at the dentist.
When it comes to opioid pain medication, redheads actually seem to need less than other hair colors, and redheads may be less sensitive to things like an electric shock, needles, and stinging pain on the skin.
Redheads are known to be sensitive to temperature changes
Another unique sensory anomaly that most redheads have is an acute sense of changes in hot or cold temperature often making redheads much more sensitive to an increase or decrease in temperature. This may be why redheads are often cold when others are not.
Listen to the How to be a Redhead podcast, S4, Ep 7 when Adrienne + Stephanie talk to an anesthesiologist about why redheads need more anesthesia:
Rock it like a Redhead!