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Science & Technology

Cause of hiccups continues to remain elusive

May 8, 2018 | Comment icon 5 comments



A drink of water is often hailed as an effective hiccup cure. Image Credit: sxc.hu
Scientists still struggle to understand how hiccups start and why certain cures work better than others.
Just about everyone will have experienced a persistent bout of hiccups at some point in their lives, however there is much about this peculiar malady that still remains a mystery to science.

A 'hiccup' is essentially the sound that is made when an involuntary diaphram spasm causes the vocal chords to snap shut when we try to breath in - something doctors refer to as 'singultus'.

Typically any behavior that extends the diaphragm and increases distension in the stomach has the potential to cause hiccups. Common examples include overeating or swallowing air when drinking.

While fortunately in most cases hiccups are a self-limiting event, for those whose hiccups just won't seem to go away, taking deep breaths and holding your breath in between can be beneficial.

But why do methods such as this work ? According to ear, nose and throat expert Gregory Levitin, it may simply be down to the fact that such techniques distract us from the hiccups themselves.
"We don't understand why hiccups come and why they go," he said. "But anything that has a distracting quality would be a positive experience."

"If you do any of these things, it really just passes the time for a few minutes."

In some extreme cases, such as when hiccups persist for months or even years, medical intervention may be needed, such as taking muscle relaxant drugs or even injecting the phrenic nerve with anesthetic, although this tends to offer only temporary relief.

As things stand however, no sure-fire hiccup cure exists.

"In the end, we all suffer from the human condition," said Levitin.

Source: Science Alert | Comments (5)



Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by paperdyer 4 years ago
"But why do methods such as this work ? According to ear, nose and throat expert Gregory Levitin, it may simply be down to the fact that such techniques distract us from the hiccups themselves."   So hiccups are psychosomatic now?  I can't remember the last time I had them, but controlling my diagram through slow and controlled breathing.
Comment icon #2 Posted by bison 4 years ago
Selecting the best home remedy for hiccups for a particular person might depend on details of the cause and individual physiology. I find drinking from the far side of a glass of water ('upside down') quite effective in most cases.  It should be done over a sink though !
Comment icon #3 Posted by pallidin 4 years ago
Funny how one of the most common ailments has no confirmed medical cause.
Comment icon #4 Posted by ChaosRose 4 years ago
It can happen from swallowing air. Drinking a small glass of orange juice seems to coat whatever is upset and calm it. 
Comment icon #5 Posted by Seti42 3 years ago
Hell = hiccups that never stop. Ever. Not psychosomatic, paperdyer. But placebo's (and thought/faith) work.


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