Thursday, August 12, 20100 comments

How do you get rid of hiccups? Do you hold your breath? Do you breathe into a paper bag? Maybe you have someone scare you? Or do you just wait until they go away?

Everyone has a favorite cure for hiccups. But why we get them is a mystery to science. They seem to serve no purpose. 


Hiccups start from the diaphragm (pronounced DY-uh-fram). This is a wide muscle below your lungs. It’s a very important muscle because it helps you breathe. It pulls down to help draw air into your lungs. It relaxes and moves up to help you breathe out.

Normally, this happens smoothly. But sometimes, the diaphragm pulls down with sudden jerk, called a spasm. This causes you to breathe in quickly. When this happens, the opening into your windpipe shuts. The flow of air is cut off. That’s what makes the hic sound.


Usually, people have several hiccups in a row. After a few minutes, they usually stop. All mammals (animals that raise their young on milk) get hiccups. Newborn human babies have them. In fact, even unborn babies can get hiccups! Women and men get hiccups equally as often. But pregnant women rarely get hiccups.


Almost all hiccups last a short time and are harmless. But in those rare cases when they last for several days or more, they interfere with sleeping and eating. If hiccups last more than a month, they must be treated with drugs or surgery. The longest recorded attack of hiccups is 60 years!

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