Harry Potter and the Miserable Migraines

  1. By Amanda Gardner
    HealthDay Reporter Fri Jun 29, 7:01 PM ET

    FRIDAY, June 29 (HealthDay News) -- Unlike Harry Potter, most Muggle children aren't charged with saving the world by fighting the evil Lord Voldemort.
    But a surprising number of Muggles (non-wizards) do have something in common with their wizard hero: They suffer from migraine headaches.

    According to research in the new issue of the journal Headache, one in 20 Muggle children and teens suffers from migraines -- many of them, like Harry's, undiagnosed.

    To raise awareness of this other evil, the American and British authors of the study decided to compare Harry's symptoms with what is known about Muggle migraines.

    Hallie Thomas, a 17-year-old high school graduate from Monroe, Conn., was the senior author on the research. She is a Harry Potter fan and also a migraine sufferer.

    For the study, she re-read all six Harry Potter volumes published to date, highlighting the passages where he had a headache.

    Those were passed on to the study's other two authors: Dr. Fred Sheftell, director of the New England Center for Headache and president-elect of the American Headache Society, and Timothy J. Steiner, a headache specialist at Imperial College of London and chairman of the World Health Organization's Global Campaign to Reduce the Burden of Headache Worldwide.

    They then tried to match the references to the description of migraine in the International Classification of Headache Disorders, 2nd edition or ICHD-II.

    Granted, this is a Muggle book, but the study authors noted that they had no access to wizard systems of headache classification.

    The Harry Potter books abound with descriptions that Muggle migraine sufferers will relate to:
    • "Then a pain pierced his head like he'd never felt before, it was as though his scar was on fire..."
    • "At once, a needle-sharp pain seared across Harry's scar; his head felt as though it was about to split in two..."
    • "And then, without warning, Harry's scar exploded with pain. It was agony such as he had never felt in all his life; his wand slipped from his fingers as he put his hands over his face; his knees buckled; he was on the ground, and he could see nothing at all; his head was about to split open... The pain in his scar reached such a pitch that he retched, and then it diminished.
    • "His scar seared and burned... the pain of it was making his eyes stream..."
    And there's more.

    Harry was 11 when his headaches started. More than half of the 28 million Americans who suffer from these debilitating headaches start getting them as children or teens.

    Hallie Thomas, in an interview withe HealthDay, recalled getting migraines since "I was really little."

    In fact, Harry's horrible headaches meet all but one of the ICHD-II criteria for migraine. They include pain often but not always on one side of the head (Harry's headaches originate in the lightning-shaped scar on the side of his forehead); nausea and vomiting (see book reference above to retching); and disabling pain (see reference to wand slipping).

    The only criterion Harry doesn't meet is the duration of the headache. Harry's headaches usually last only a few minutes, while Muggle migraines can endure for hours.

    But wizards recuperate quickly from illness and injury, the study authors pointed out.

    "Harry's quick recovery could be due to his magical powers," Sheftell said in a prepared statement.

    Regardless, because of the one missing criterion, the authors give Harry the diagnosis of "probable migraine."
    Hallie agreed that "maybe" Harry Potter is getting migraines.
    "He talks about searing pain, and sometimes he can't see and stuff," she said. She added that she sometimes can't go out in the sun because her migraines are so excruciating.
    According to the study authors, Muggle children and teens with frequent headaches should first be seen by their primary-care physician (Harry saw Madame Pomfrey in the Hogwarts infirmary). If their headaches persist, they should be seen by a specialist.
    Treatment programs don't have to include medication and can rely instead on stress management, getting proper sleep and exercise and avoiding triggers.
    In Muggledom, triggers can include stress, a change in weather or certain foods.
    But Harry's main trigger is He Who Must Not Be Named. Curing Harry's migraines would involve eliminating his arch nemesis.
    And that remains to be seen: The final book in the J.K. Rowlings series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, comes out on July 21.

  2. lol i never thought of that
  3. ahahah poor Harry.
    I get headaches really often.