Pediatrician reports Potter book headaches

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Has the latest Harry Potter fantasy cast a spell of "Hogwarts headaches" on some of its most avid readers?

A pediatrician says he had three otherwise healthy children complain of headaches for two to three days last summer. It turns out all had been reading the 870-page "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" in marathon sessions.

"The kids I saw were all avid Harry Potter fans who just plowed through the book," said Dr. Howard Bennett, whose office is in Washington. "A lot of my kids would be reading six, eight hours a day. And it's a big book for a 9- or 10-year-old child."

He dubbed their ailment "Hogwarts headache" after the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that the boy wizard attends. He said the youngsters' headaches were probably caused by tensing their head muscles for long periods.

Bennett said he encouraged children to keep reading the hefty book, which he enjoyed.

"But it might be nice to take a break periodically," he said, adding that two of the headache sufferers decided to keep reading and pop Tylenol instead.

Bennett described "Hogwarts headaches" in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine. The letter in today's issue is printed with a graph tracking the size and weight of the five books in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.