Laughing My Way Into an Asthma Attack

There are countless asthma triggers, and what triggers your asthma can be different from someone else who has asthma. Also, asthma triggers can change over time.

One of the weirdest triggers that can cause an asthma attack is strong emotions, as in laughter, anger, fear, etc.1

In my last job, I coordinated an asthma home visiting program and would teach families about the basics of asthma and how to make their house allergy- and asthma-friendly. When I would get to the part where I would teach them about asthma triggers, they would almost always be shocked when they learned that strong emotions can cause an asthma attack. It is one of those weird asthma triggers that people do not really know about.

Most people know about asthma attacks from pollen, bad air quality, dog and cat dander, mold, etc. But...strong emotions?

Strange but true!

Laughter as an asthma trigger

One of my favorite stress relievers is watching cat videos. In fact, our family has a group text, and it is often full of funny cat memes or cat videos. Just when you think you have seen it all, someone will post a video of their cat doing something crazy.

Some just make me smile, but other videos will make me laugh so hard I almost lose my breath. I will be doubled over with laughter and my stomach muscles will start to hurt because I cannot stop laughing.

And then...the asthma attack starts. Argh!

What I did when the asthma attack started - and why

For me, an asthma attack will usually start with a little tickle in my throat. It is like a warning sign that tells me it is time to grab my albuterol inhaler before things get worse.

By the way: Did you know that albuterol inhalers are usually called "reliever inhalers?" They relieve (or relax) the smooth muscles that tighten around the outside of the airway. Many people think of their albuterol inhaler as an "emergency inhaler" and will only use them if their asthma symptoms are REALLY bad.2

But I was listening to a webinar from a nationally known pediatric doctor who specializes in allergies and asthma. One thing that he said caught my attention. He said we need to stop calling albuterol inhalers "emergency inhalers." That's because patients need to use their inhaler at the first sign of an asthma attack instead of waiting until they are gasping for air.

So, like a good patient, I took a puff of my albuterol to help control the asthma attack I was having. I know that laughing can cause an asthma attack โ€“ but where is the fun in life if you cannot enjoy it?

I waited a few minutes and took another puff of my inhaler. Then I waited to see if I needed more puffs, but by then my lungs started to settle down. I coughed for quite a while to clear the mucus from my lungs, but it was worth it. Anything that can help make life more fun is always worth it.

Has anyone else had an asthma attack from laughing?

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