Cure for hiccups?

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: May 15th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The cause and function of hiccups has baffled doctors and medical scientists since the time of Hippocrates. But we do know what they are.

Hiccups, or hic-COUGHS as they are also called, are involuntary sounds made by spasms of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a large sheet of muscle slung beneath the lungs that is instrumental in breathing.

The characteristic (MIMIC A HICCUP) HIC sound is caused by the sharp closure of the epiglottis that surrounds the windpipe at the top of the throat.

While the cause remains unclear, researchers have dug up enough trivia on the annoying affliction to fill a category on a Jeopardy game board.

Here are a few tidbits:

The longest documented case of hiccups is sixty-eight years… from 1922 to 1990;

Hippocrates suggested sneezing as a cure, while Plato claimed a good scare would rid hiccups;

Men hiccup more than women by more than a two-to-one margin.

Most hiccup fits are temporary and eventually go away on their own within a few minutes to a few hours. But virtually any serious condition that affects the chest or abdomen can trigger hiccups. That includes kidney failure, liver disease, cancer, nervous system disorders, ulcers, heart attack and pregnancy.

Home remedies are too numerous to mention, but medical treatment options include antispasmodic drugs and surgery to sever some of the nerves of the diaphragm.

Researchers are still looking for the quick, easy cure for hiccups, but don’t hold your breath. Or…maybe you should.