A person covering their mouth trying not to laugh

Laughing with Asthma

Last updated: June 2022

Have you ever laughed so hard you had an asthma attack? They say laughter is the best medicine, perhaps not if you are a person with asthma, then laughter may leave you needing medicine. There are many triggers for asthma, including heavy emotional states such as intense crying or laughter. Changing our breathing patterns is a form of hyperventilation which is why laughing or crying can trigger an asthma attack.

My asthma was triggered by laughter?

I didn’t know laughing was a trigger until about 26 years after first being diagnosed with asthma. It didn’t affect me until my late twenties, and what a shock to the system it was! Imagine laughing and feeling miserable as a result! The first time this happened it was a complete surprise, and to be perfectly honest I was a little confused. Did that just happen?

I was out to dinner with some friends following the birth of my son, and we were talking and laughing like any other evening spent with them. Then came my warning, the itchy chin. I still to this day haven’t met anyone else that gets an itchy chin when they are about to have an asthma attack. Thankfully, as bizarre as that may sound, my asthma was not well controlled at this time of my life, so I had my reliever inhaler with me, and I was able to get things under control.

However, this was not the last time I would be triggered by laughter, and it became a much more frequent occurrence. It sometimes, and occasionally still does, leads to panic, mostly because it is so unexpected. I know what to do when I have an asthma attack when I’m exercising or out in the cold, but an asthma attack whilst laughing catches me off guard every time.

Prepare for asthma attacks, and enjoy life

It was a few months after this first incident that I started to avoid going to places. I couldn’t laugh in my own home with my baby, how on earth was I going to manage this in public? Many of us are told by medical professionals to avoid our triggers to control our asthma better, but who wants to avoid laughing? I have avoided many social events purely to dodge another asthma attack. But isn’t it sad that we must miss out on parties, weddings, and family gatherings for fear of feeling vulnerable in front of a large group of people? For fear of being the center of attention whilst it is someone else’s time to shine. It took some time for me to realize that my mental health was as important as my physical health, and it was important that I still spent time with my loved ones.

I am fortunate enough to very rarely be triggered by laughing nowadays. If I could have given myself advice a few years ago, it would have been to embrace and treasure the moments with my family and friends. To make sure I was better prepared for any potential asthma attacks, and to not worry about causing a scene. No one thought it was a scene except me.

Your friends and family are aware of the difficulties you face and still want you there. Go and enjoy yourselves.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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