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Children's health

23rd Aug 2022

5-year-old boy being treated for ‘laugh headaches’ in Ireland

Kat O'Connor

The young boy gets regular headaches when he laughs.

A 5-year-old boy is being treated for headaches caused by laughter in Ireland.

The young boy presented at Mayo University Hospital with “recurring headaches associated with laughter”.

In a paper published in the Irish Medical Journal, doctors confirmed that the boy has the first ever paediatric case of “laugh headaches”.

Doctors discovered that the boy has a Chiari malformation.

This means part of the skull is misshapen or smaller than it should be. This part of the skull then presses on the child’s brain and pushes it downward.

“Investigation with MRI Brain revealed Chiari Type 1 Malformation with cerebellar tonsillar descent of 19mm below the foramen magnum.”

The headaches occur when the boy laughed, but not when he coughs, sneezes, strains or bends over.

The 5-year-old said the pain is “a tightening sensation around his entire head”.

The pain “may be associated with pallor, nausea, gagging or generalised weakness”.

Doctors said the young boy “grasps his head” with both hands and lies or sits on the floor when the headaches occur.

The pain tends to last for several seconds, but they occur daily.

The headache occurred once when the boy shouted, but never happened again.

When it subsides, he returns “to good form afterward”.

Thankfully, the headaches have not affected the boy’s school life or his social life. He still has multiple hobbies including GAA and soccer.

His parents have to keep note of the headaches’ patterns.

Doctors stressed that headaches caused by laughter are extremely rare.

The boy is being “managed conservatively with serial neuroimaging and symptom monitoring”.

He will have follow-up appointments with the Neurosurgical team. He will also have another MRI and a scan of his spine.

You can read the full report here.