updated 11/4/2003 4:00:24 PM ET 2003-11-04T21:00:24

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

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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 J. 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. One of the children also had neck and wrist pain.

Bennett said he encourages 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 prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. The letter in Thursday’s issue is printed with a graph tracking the size and weight of the five books in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

Bennett didn’t hear any headache complaints with the earlier books, which started at 309 pages and grew. “If this escalation continues as Rowling concludes the saga, there may be an epidemic of Hogwarts headaches in the years to come,” he writes.

But he really doesn’t want Rowling to limit the size of her books.

“Just keeping writing great books. I wouldn’t dream of giving her advice,” said Bennett, who is the author of medical humor books.

At Public School 6 in New York City, 10-year-old Ella Schwarzbaum said she read the book a few hours at a time over several weeks with no ill effects. Schoolmate Galen Stump, 10, devoured it during a three-day car trip to Colorado.

“I got to read it all day, every day,” he said.

Galen had occasional headaches that he blamed on the long hours and poor lighting.

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