Science Questions

Sun, 8th Jan 2006

Part of the show Obesity, Appetite, Exercise and Weight Loss

Question

Rose in Peterborough asked:

Does laughing gas really make you laugh?

Answer

Yes, it kind of does. Laughing gas is nitrous oxide, and it acts as an anaesthetic-type agent. It makes your brain feel a bit woozy in the same way that alcohol does. As a result, if you take some laughing gas, you fell a little bit drunk and a little bit cheerful. If you have enough of it, you start to feel a little bit sleepy, but it's very good at pain killing. If you're having an operation, it's sometimes used with other anaesthetics to kill pain and make you more comfortable. There is a sub-set of people in the population that have a particular form of a gene that is involved in making new blood cells. If they have this sub-set and have laughing gas, then it can affect their bone marrow in the long term. It can make your bone marrow work less well. Luckily, it's only temporary, but I don't think that I'll be inhaling lots of laughing gas.

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