Misconceptions about Hiccups

Hiccups are a reflexive action, a contraction of your diaphragm and your voice box. This onomatopoeia of a bodily function occurs when the diaphragm contracts, causing you to sharply inhale. This along with a contraction of your voice box where the small opening between your chords (glottis) abruptly closes and cuts of the air results in a clicking noise. The rhythm of your hiccups, whether they occur in a cluster or one by one, interestingly enough happens at a consistent pace. There are many reasons why you start to hiccup and stop, but most are anecdotal and none of them conclusive.

The most common attempts to stop hiccupping include holding your breath, hyperventilating or gulping water (I gulp water while holding my breath, or hold my breath and swallow). Many misconceptions about what will stop hiccups are quite old, but more recently a teenager named Mallory Kievman, in an effort to stop her own hiccups, invented a new remedy. Called a Hiccupop, it is essentially a lollipop made with apple cider vinegar and sugar–a combination that the inventor says “cancels out” the hiccup reflex.

The cause of hiccups could be from eating too fast or too much, or eating food that is too spicy, too fizzy, too hot or too dry. But hiccups could also indicate something serious like inflammatory bowel disease, a brain tumor or stroke. For most of us, hiccups seem to start for no reason at all and to stop shortly thereafter. There are a few rare cases where the hiccupee wasn’t so lucky. A man in Tennessee has been hiccupping for the past 27 years, and a young woman in 2007 who was hiccupping more than 50 times a minute posted a YouTube video and subsequently appeared on a circuit of talk-shows before the hiccups eventually stopped more than a month later. None of these compare to Charles Osbourne, who hiccupped for 68 years and holds the world record in the Guinness Book. Osbourne stated that his hiccups started while attempting to lift and weigh a hog. One of his doctors believe he had a small stroke while exerting himself. He learned to breathe methodically between hiccups, which at least helped control the sound. He was married twice, once to someone before the hiccups began and once to someone else after.