A widely held popular belief in this country and in England until recently was that children with red hair were especially prone to develop rheumatic fever. Physicians as distinguished as Sir George Frederic Still (1868-1941) also shared this view as is shown in the following quotation which is taken from his famous textbook, Common Dlsorders and Diseases of Children.
There is one further phenomenon which is noteworthy in rheumatic children and which is perhaps worth mentioning here, although it is necessarily noticeable also in adults-the association of red hair with rheumatism and rheumatic heredity. The following observation may serve to illustrate it. In four days there were amongst my out-patients eleven children with red hair. Of these, two were attending with articular rheumatism; one had occasional pain and swelling in the knees, his mother had red hair and frequent pain in the limbs, and her brother and sister had "rheumatic fever;" one had "pains in the knees" and his mother had "rheumatism;" three others showed a history of "rheumatic fever" in the mother or father; one was attending with chorea; one had a brother attending with articular rheumatism; only two out of the eleven showed no rheumatism or chorea in themselves or their families.
Amongst 80 children with red hair (including the 11 already mentioned) 24 were attending with definite manifestations of acute rheumatism, articulan or cardiac or chorea; 6 had pains in the limb which were almost certainly rheumatic, and of the remaining 50 cases 17 showed a family history of acute rheumatism (including chorea) in parents or brothers or sisters; so that there was rheumatism either in the child or the family in 47 out of 80; i.e. in 58 percent.