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When a Laugh a Day Does Not Keep the Doctor Away
Dr Raja Dhar
“The human race has only one effective weapon, and that is laughter” - Mark Twain
With researches unveiling the tremendous potency of laughter to fight against an array of ailments, the medical fraternity couldn’t have agreed more that laughter is indeed therapeutic.
In general, laughter promotes the secretion of endorphins or the ‘feel good hormone’. It also enhances one’s resistance against infections by increasing the concentration of both circulating antibodies in the blood stream and white blood cells in the immune reaction, to fight germs.

Laughing is one of the best exercises for lungs. It keeps the lungs clear of secretions and is a good workout for the diaphragm (muscle separating the abdomen from the chest) and other breathing muscles. Belly laughter also helps in forceful expulsion of air from the entire lungs and thus has a cleansing effect. For people with conditions like cystic fibrosis or chronic bronchitis, where getting rid of excess mucus is an absolute necessity, laughter is highly beneficial from a medical point of view.

But did you know that more than 50 percent of asthmatics report that their asthma is triggered by laughter? Asthma is a very common airway disorder, where the air passages becomes inflamed or constricted and secrete excess mucus, making the simple act of breathing a herculean task.

According to a study presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference, which was conducted on 235 patients, 56 percent had laughter-induced asthma (LIA). Stuart Garay, M.D., Clinical Professor of Medicine at NYU Medical Center was struck by how common laughter-induced asthma is. “It’s 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 mite allergy, and allergy to animal dander and molds,” he said. “It’s a little-appreciated frequent trigger.”

The study found that the most common symptom in patients with laughter-induced asthma was coughing, which generally starts within two minutes. The next most common symptom was chest tightness. But the real twist in the whole story lies elsewhere. The study shows that the incidence of laughter induced asthma is more commonly seen when the patient’s asthma is not well controlled. Patients involved in the study could laugh longer when their asthma was under control.

So if you know of someone who gets an asthma attack on laughing, it is likely that their treatment plan needs to be reviewed.

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