The old adage "laughter is the best medicine" has proved its worth among children coping with pain, according medical experts in the US, who found laughter helped children relax, which had a major impact on how they dealt with and accepted pain.
They believe the healing power of humor can reduce pain and stimulate immune function in children with cancer, Aids, or diabetes and in children receiving organ transplants and bone marrow treatments. Their study reinforces practices adopted by UK hospitals, where laughter is used as a tool to make hospital wards a friendlier place.
Dr Margaret Stuber, who led the US research, said, "We think laughter could be used to help children who are undergoing painful procedures or who suffer from pain-expectation anxiety. In the future, patients watching humorous videos could become a standard component of some medical procedures."
They asked 21 children aged eight to 14 to put their hand into cold water and found the whole group tolerated the temperature longer while watching a funny video.
Those who laughed most remembered less of the pain and hormone tests on their saliva showed their stress levels were lower after laughing.
Dr Stuber said: "Rx Laughter's goal is to ease ill children through some of these medical procedures and minimize the traumatic effects that children experience. The US study, Rx Laughter, is a collaboration between the entertainment industry, pediatrics, and psychiatry.
"In some instances laughter may even reduce the amount of anesthesia necessary."
Hospitals in the UK have recognized the power of laughter and some use "clown doctors" to go into children's wards and inject a bit of fun. The team of 10 clown doctors visit about 30,000 children and their families every year at hospitals in London, Manchester and Cambridge.
Humorous videos, especially cartoons, are already used in anesthetic rooms at Manchester Children's Hospital. They have found the videos help the children relax before going into the operating room. Go ahead and have a great laugh today. it's good for you.