Hiccups Suck

by | Aug 28, 2017


What is a Hiccup?

A hiccup occurs when there in a sudden, involuntary contraction of the diaphragm causing a sudden intake of air and then there is an accompanying shutting of the glottis (the flap that keeps food and water from going into your lungs).

What Causes Hiccups?

Attacks of the hiccups seem to be associated with a few different things:

  • eating or drinking too fast and/or overeating;
  • consumption of alcohol or carbonated beverages;
  • being nervous or excited; or
  • having irritation in the stomach and/or throat – acid reflux is a common culprit

Most simple cases of hiccups come after eating or drinking too much or too quickly. In some extremely rare cases, the underlying cause of hiccups can be pleurisy (inflammation of the membrane lining of the lungs and chest cavity), pneumonia, certain disorders of the stomach or esophagus, pancreatitis, alcoholism, or hepatitis. Hiccups that last longer than 48 hours can be a cause for concern.

What Purpose does Hiccuping Serve?

Hiccuping appears to serve no useful purpose  For hundreds of years scientists from many different specialties have attempted to explain why we hiccup.  So far, no explanation has been proven.  Various theories:

  • One of the leading explanations is that we hiccup so that we can exercise our respiratory system while in the womb.  We keep this ability after birth, even though it is no longer useful.
  • Another is that hiccups helps rid your gut of trapped air to assist swallowed food down your stomach
  • The action of a hiccup is similar to what occurs when a tadpole (which has both gills and lungs) breathes water through it’s gills. Thus, hiccuping could be a remnant of genetic code passed down from amphibian ancestors

A Few Interesting Hiccuping Facts

If you’re able to stifle the hiccup right away, great. But if you hiccup more than seven times you’d better settle in for the long haul. Once in hiccup mode you typically will hiccup 63 times or more.

The Guinness World Record for the longest bout of hiccups is 68 years.  Charles Osborne had the hiccups from 1922-1990, he died in 1991.  He didn’t have a mild case either, his hiccups started at a rate of 40 per minute, then dropped to 20 per minute until they stopped completely the year before his death. Osborne began hiccuping in 1922, while slaughtering a hog. Despite his condition, Osborne was able to lead a normal life, which included being married twice and having eight children.  It has been estimated that Osborne hiccuped 430 million times over the 68 year period. The average human only hiccups about 2,300 times in an average lifetime.

How to Stop Hiccuping

There is no proven method to stop hiccups. A five-year study of potential hiccup remedies by Dr. Tyler Cymet found that “nothing works – it starts and stops on its own, and that’s about it.”

Notwithstanding that conclusion, there are a number of potential remedies in a few different categories:


  • Distraction from one’s hiccup (e.g. being startled, asked a perplexing question, or counting in reverse from 100 down)
  • Concentration on one’s hiccups – using sheer will to stop them
  • Some doctors perform a “digital rectal massage” to stop their patients from hiccuping
  • Sexual activity
  • Hypnosis


  • Swallowing three times while holding one’s breath
  • Eating particular foods
  • Drinking a glass of water using various methods
  • Swallowing a teaspoon of vinegar in one gulp
  • Eating an ice cube
  • Attempting to drink a glass of water ‘upside down’
  • Drinking a glass of water with a spoon touching one’s temple.
  • Put a cold ice pack on your head and drink a glass of water.
  • Swallowing a tablespoon full of peanut butter


  • Breathing slowly and deeply in while thinking ‘breathing out’ and breathing slowly and fully out while thinking ‘breathing in’
  • Holding one’s breath while optionally squeezing one’s stomach
  • Breathing deeply through the nose, then exhaling slowly through the mouth
  • Exhaling all the air from one’s lungs and holding one’s breath while swallowing water or saliva
  • Smoking a cigarette
  • Blowing up a balloon
  • Inducing sneezing

Good luck


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