There's nothing funny about an asthma attack. But a recent study suggests that laughter can be a frequent asthma trigger.
Dr. Stuart Garay, a clinical professor of medicine at New York University Medical Center and his team studied 235 people who had asthma. Of these participants, 56% reported that laughter is a trigger for their respiratory symptoms. However, compared with other types of asthma, laughter-induced asthma did not appear to cause more flare-ups requiring emergency room care or hospitalization.
The amount of laughter that can trigger asthma symptoms varied. "For a majority of patients, mild laughter or even a chuckle will set off coughing. For others, laughing hard will bring on asthma symptoms," Garay explains.
"Patients did report that during times when their asthma is well-controlled, they can laugh for longer without getting asthma symptoms," Garay says
"That suggests that laughter-induced asthma may be a sign that a person's asthma isn't as well-controlled as it could be. People who have asthma should be allowed to laugh."
Laughter-induced asthma is "as common as some of the most well-known asthma triggers, such as grasses, trees, pollen, fumes and odors, and it's even more common than dust mites, allergy to animals and molds," notes Garay. "It's a little-appreciated, frequent trigger."
Garay says he was surprised by the prevalence of laughter-induced asthma. Although he doesn't know how laughter causes asthma symptoms, he speculates that it might involve hyperventilating.
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