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The phenomenon has been record a number of times throughout history, dating back as far as Ancient Greece and occurring as recently as a few decades ago. Although it sounds bizarre, the death is usually a result of cardiac arrest or asphyxiation caused by the fits of laughter.
One of the oldest cases on record occurred in Ancient Greece in the 3rd Century BC, when a laughing fit resulted in the death of Greek philosopher Chrysippus.
He apparently fed his donkey some wine which got it so drunk that he burst out laughing – until he died.
In 1893, Wesley Parsons, an Indiana farmer, was socialising with friends when he launched into a bout of uncontrollable laughter.
The giggles lasted a whole hour turned into hiccups – he died two hours later.
Just a few decades ago, Alex Mitchell from Norfolk was watching an episode of The Goodies when he began laughing and suffered a heart failure – though it is now believed that Mr Mitchell died of a pre-existing condition.
To be clear, you do not actually die from the laughing itself, but instead something else triggered by it.
One of the main causes of death from laughing is an asthma attack, with some cases being triggered by laughter which can make it hard to breathe.
Raptured brain aneurysms can also be the result of too much laughter – being caused by increased pressure in the skull cavity, which can interfere with oxygen in the brain, resulting in a coma or death.
Laughing too hard can also sometimes lead to asphyxiation or suffocation, causing someone to stop breathing as a result of depriving their body of oxygen.
Gelastic seizures start in the hypothalamus and are very unique because of their link with uncontrollable laughing and giggling whilst asleep.
Dr. Kaushal, a General Practitioner at Priory Medical Centre in Liverpool said: “I’d say it’s highly unlikely that someone would actually die of laughter nowadays, it’s very rare. Unless they had food in their mouth at the time and choked on it!”
“It’s just not something you really come across as a medical professional, at least I haven’t anyway. Perhaps because it’s so rare, and we can quickly identify something like an asthma attack or a heart attack unlike back in the day in Ancient Greece.”
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