Stories tagged hiccups


This man doesn't have hiccups: but he's thinking about it.
This man doesn't have hiccups: but he's thinking about it.Courtesy prashant_zi
Chris Sands, a twenty four year old British musician is now on the fifteenth month of a case of hiccups. Hiccupping as often as every two seconds, the man is said to even hiccup in his sleep. If we assume that the man averages about one hiccup every ten seconds (they have to slow down when he’s asleep, right?), that means he has still hiccupped approximately 39,312,000 times since the inception of his condition.

It’s a stressful thought isn’t it? And the ramifications are no more pleasing—on average, a single hiccup lowers a person’s happiness by about a fifth of a puppy (a puppy being the standard unit of happiness). The longer hiccups last, the closer to this average value hiccups come (successive hiccups becoming more frustrating and yet less surprising), so we can pretty safely assume that Sands’ condition has resulted in the loss of about 7,862,400 puppies. Obviously he must have gained puppies here or there over the last 15 months, but, even assuming that Mr. Sands was a pretty happy person to begin with, the levels of puppy accumulation that would be required to overcome this deficit are practically inconceivable in the present day on planet Earth. For instance, finding buried treasure on four separate occasions would just about bring someone up to 7,862,400 puppies. Not going to happen. Seeing a different animal dressed in funny clothing every five minutes of your waking life for about a decade, likewise, would do the trick. But, likewise, not going to happen. Not on this planet.

Initially, Sands turned to what I like to call “the namby-pamby sciences” for a cure, experimenting with yoga and hypnosis to no effect. Duh. However, it seems that even the “Desert Eagle sciences” of drugs and surgery may not be able to help the spasmodic musician. There was some thought that the hiccups stemmed from a chronic acid reflux condition, caused by a damaged stomach valve, in which case simple keyhole surgery to tighten the valve probably would have done the trick. Early body scans, however, don’t appear to indicate that this is the problem.

Chris Sands may be up Brown Creek.

Some might say that Sands should count his blessings, and consider Charles Osborne of Anthon, Iowa, who had hiccups from 1922 to 1990. But then some might say that this is exactly what the young man has to look forward to. Best of luck, fella.

UPDATE: Apparently seeing animals in clothing doesn't necessarily make you happy. Sometimes it's just the opposite.


Pine Barrens Tree Frog: In this image the tympanum can be seen as the small round disk to the right of the eye. Image courtesy Bruce Means and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Do frogs have ears?

Yes, they do, but they are different from the ears we have. Frogs do not have external ears, rather they have something called a tympanum. The tympanum are behind the eyes, and look like round disks. Some tympanum are easier to see than others. They receive sound waves for the frog just like the tympanic membrane (also known as the eardrum) does for us. Frogs not only use the tympanum to hear, but also use their lungs. The lungs help with hearing, and also protect the frog’s eardrums from the very loud noises frogs make by equalizing pressures between the inner and outer surfaces of the tympanum.

What does sublimation mean?

In physics, sublimation is the process by which a solid converts to a gas and bypasses a liquid stage in doing so. Have you ever seen dry ice? At room temperature, dry ice sublimates directly into a gas, skipping the liquid stage.

Where do Komodo Dragons live?

There are about 6,000 Komodo Dragons living in the wild. They live on the Lesser Sunda Islands in Indonesia.

What causes hiccups?

There are a variety of causes for hiccups, including eating too quickly, swallowing too much air, taking a cold drink while eating a hot meal, laughing, coughing, or drinking too much alcohol.

Hiccups are an involuntary spasm of the diaphragm, the large muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. The sudden intake of air into the lungs is stopped by the glottis, which causes the “hic” sound.

Do you know how fast the Earth spins on its axis?

Well, if you figure the Earth does one full rotation on its axis about every 24 hours (23 hours, 56 minutes, and 04.09 seconds), and the Earth’s circumference is around 25,000 miles (24,901.55 miles), then it spins at roughly 1,040 miles per hour.

Illustration of the life-cycle of the Sun: Illustration courtesy Tablizer.
Illustration of the life-cycle of the Sun: Illustration courtesy Tablizer.Courtesy Tablizer
Will the sun explode?

No, but one day it will be large enough to push the Earth into a new orbit while eradicating the Earth’s atmosphere – but not for a long, long time. Our sun does not have enough mass to “go supernova” and explode. But, in about 5-6 billion years it will start becoming a red giant once it has used up its supply of hydrogen in its core and switched to fusing hydrogen in a shell outside of its core. While this is happening other processes will cause the sun to grow. Much, much later, the red dwarf will become a planetary nebula, and then a white dwarf. This is the standard stellar evolution for a star such as our sun.


Hiccup cure: One of the many homemade variety.Coutesy lissame
Hiccup cure: One of the many homemade variety.
Coutesy lissame

One of the unexpected pleasures I’ve had in working in Body Worlds have been discussions about hiccups. There are several plastinated bodies that show the diaphragm -- the usual instigator of hiccups -- very well.

Along with those discussions have been a ton of comments from visitors about how they stop their hiccups. So I put it to you Science Buzz readers…what is your cure for hiccups?

Where's my diaphragm: Torso showing location of diaphragm. Courtesey Gray's Anatomy
Where's my diaphragm: Torso showing location of diaphragm. Courtesey Gray's AnatomyCourtesy Gray's Anatomy

I’ve been surprised at how few people actually know what happens in their body when they have the hiccups, so let’s cover that first.
The diaphragm is a large muscle that stretches across your entire torso, just below your lungs. It moves up and down to help your lungs inhale and exhale the air you breathe.

A hiccup occurs when the diaphragm experiences a spasm. You’ve probably felt your arm or leg muscles spasm, when they kind of twitch without you doing anything to make that happen. When the diaphragm spasms, it causes a quick intake of breath. But that breath is stopped quickly because the vocal cords in your throat close. The resulting turbulence of air in your throat makes the sound of a hiccup.

So why does the diaphragm spasm? One of the main causes is a full stomach. Factors leading to a full stomach that can lead to hiccups include eating too much food too fast, drinking too much alcohol, swallowing too much air, smoking, a sudden change in stomach temperature (like drinking a hot beverage after a cold beverage) or emotional stress or excitement.

In most cases, hiccups go away in just a few minutes. If they go on for a longer period of time, your abdomen may start to hurt. In rare instances, hiccups can last for more than 48 hours. Those persistent hiccups are usually a sign of more serious health problems and should be checked on by a doctor. Those conditions could include a problem with the central nervous system; problems in the body’s chemistry for kidney functions or hyperventilating; irradiation of the nerves in the head, neck or chest; anesthesia or surgery; mental health problems.

The best cures for regular forms of hiccups involve increasing the level of carbon dioxide in your blood. So how do you think you can do that?