Redheads and Anesthesia: There Is a Difference for Them!

Anesthesia is a tricky thing. And now that we have the internet you can literally scare yourself to death reading horror stories online about anesthesia mishaps, people who woke up during surgery or patients who had the wrong body part removed. And now there’s something new to be concerned with. Are you a redhead? Are you about to have general anesthesia? You may have heard that redheads require more anesthesia and after just a little bit of researching, you’ll find that it’s true! Why? Here’s what one researcher has to say:

Dr. Daniel I. Sessler, an anesthesiologist and chairman of the department of outcomes research at the Cleveland Clinic, said he began studying hair color after hearing so many colleagues speculate about redheads requiring more anesthesia.

Dr. Sessler reported that prior to doing his research, it was essentially an urban legend that redheads required more anesthetic. Enough physicians had actually observed this phenomenon, however, that the department of anesthesia decided that they should do an actual scientific study.

After publishing research on the topic, Dr. Sessler began hearing from redheads who complained about problems with dental pain and fear about going to the dentist. He said that when someone with red hair is considering a dental or other procedure requiring an anesthetic, they should talk to their doctor about the high probability that they are resistant to anesthetics.

It has now been scientifically proven that redheads tend to be resistant to anesthesia and even local anesthetics. Now physicians now that this is not just speculation. Most redheads at the dentist, hospitals or urgent care should anticipate needing more more relief from anesthetics than non-redheads. It’s a fact.

One of my redheaded friends was so relieved to hear this because she says now she won’t feel so bad when she tells the dentist that she can still feel what he is doing to her and yes, that she still does need more novocaine! Hopefully, this will help many redheads to understand why they need more pain relief.

Which brings me to my next point. If you are a redhead and need to have surgery, are you concerned that you will require more anesthesia? Fears about anesthesia include, being given too much anesthesia and not waking up afterwards; being given too little anesthesia and waking up before surgery is finished; being resistant to anesthesia and waking up enough to feel and hear what is happening but not being able to say anything. Although all of these scenarios are extremely unlikely, they do happen and merit some careful thought about how to proceed. Be sure to talk with your physician about your options.