Interesting Facts About Hiccups: It’s A Two-Step Process

Stop Hiccups

Stop Hiccups

Hiccups may be super annoying, but the science behind them is super interesting. A hiccup is an involuntary contraction (myoclonic jerk) of the diaphragm that may repeat several times per minute. The hiccup is an involuntary action involving a reflex arc. Once triggered, the reflex causes a strong contraction of the diaphragm followed about 0.25 second later by closure of the vocal cords, which results in the classic “hic” sound.
A number of things can cause hiccups. Alcohol consumption, smoking, sudden changes of temperature (both inside of and outside of your stomach), a bloated stomach from overeating, shock, stress, and excitement have all been linked to causing short-term bouts of hiccups. Long-term hiccups can be caused by gastrointestinal or respiratory distress, diabetes,
There’s no real reason why humans hiccup, or at least none that scientists have figured out yet. It’s theorized that it’s a holdover from when humans were still evolving away from being amphibious and needed a way to close off airways so water didn’t get in quickly.
Hiccups may occur individually, or they may occur in bouts. The rhythm of the hiccup, or the time between hiccups, tends to be relatively constant. A bout of hiccups, in general, resolves itself without intervention, although many home remedies are often used to attempt to shorten the duration. Medical treatment is occasionally necessary in cases of chronic hiccups.
Here are 10 interesting facts about hiccups that will surprise and inform you:
1. A hiccup is a two-step process. Step one is a muscle spasm that causes you to suck in lots of air. Step two is a nearly immediate closure of your airways that blocks that air, causing a “hiccup” noise.
The muscles that spasm are mostly found in the diaphragm. The flap of skin that blocks the airway to your lung is called a glottis. It closes around 35 milliseconds after you suck in all that air.
2. The longest case of hiccups lasted for 68 years. A normal episode of hiccups lasts a few minutes, but a man named Charles Osborne had hiccups from 1922 to 1960, until he was 96 years old. They stopped one year before he died.
3. Home remedies for hiccups aren’t proven. There is no slam-dunk remedy for hiccups—except a prescription medicine. So don’t worry if such tactics as trying to scare yourself, hold your breath, or drink a glass of water upside down don’t work for you. Many hiccup home remedies, such as breathing into a paper bag, release calcium ions into the blood to block nervous system activity. That might cause a decrease in muscle spasms, but it’s not definite and it isn’t guaranteed to make your hiccups stop.
4. Hiccups should be short-lived. If your hiccups last for two days or more, you could be at risk for serious health problems. Hiccups that won’t quit could signal a range of medical conditions including ulcers, malaria, and even cancer.
5. Humans aren’t the only ones who hiccup. Most mammals hiccup, surprisingly. But humans tend to hiccup more than any other animal. It’s more common for babies to get hiccups than adults, and fetuses are known to hiccup in the womb.
6. Average hiccup frequency is measured in the units hiccups per minute. According to the United States National Library of Medicine, a normal hiccup frequency can be anywhere from four to sixty hiccups per minute. This means some people hiccup once every single second when they have an episode. Experts claim that each person has a different hiccup pattern, which remains constant over time. For example, if a person hiccups for twenty minutes at a rate of ten hiccups per minute, he or she will display this pattern during every case of the hiccups. In general, adult women have higher hiccup frequencies than adult men do, and hiccup frequency tends to decline with age. Even though it may seem this way, hiccup frequency is not random.
7. Even unborn babies get them. Premature infants spend as much as 2 percent of their time hiccuping—and that might be for a good reason. Some scientists think hiccups stimulate the respiratory muscles we need to breathe, helping babies develop more quickly in the womb. The theory goes that once we’re born, we still have the impulse—just no biological need for it anymore.

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