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13 Facts You Definitely Don't Know About Hiccups

What's your deal, hiccups? What is your deal?

Posted on May 5, 2015, at 3:32 p.m. ET

1. The medical term for the hiccups is singultus.

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Singultus is a Latin word for the act of catching one's breath while crying.

2. A hiccup is a two-step process.

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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 (above). 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.

3. Hiccups are known to occur in almost all mammals.

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4. Infants hiccup more than other humans.

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Why? It's kind of a mystery.

5. Ultrasounds have shown that even fetuses have hiccups.

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6. Nobody knows for sure why hiccups exist in the first place.

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7. Some think it may be a holdover from our deep evolutionary past.

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There are two separate hypotheses here. The first is about the initial muscle spasm that starts the hiccup. The idea is that because the nerves have such a great distance to go from the brain stem to the diaphragm, sometimes their paths get crossed and accidentally cause a spasm. Scientists argue that this is left over from the fact that deeper in our evolutionary history these muscles were meant to control our fishy ancestor's gills, which were much closer to the brain stem.

The second idea concerns the closing of the airways. Many scientists think this is a holdover from our amphibious ancestors, who would need a quick reaction to prevent water from entering its lungs when switching between gill breathing and lung breathing.
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The second idea concerns the closing of the airways. Many scientists think this is a holdover from our amphibious ancestors, who would need a quick reaction to prevent water from entering its lungs when switching between gill breathing and lung breathing.

8. Another idea suggests that the hiccup is actually a way to prepare the fetus for breathing once it is born by exercising its muscles.

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9. And there are others that think that hiccups help babies to self-burp.

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This would allow air to be removed from the stomach to make space for more milk.

10. The longest bout of hiccups lasted from 1922 until February 1990.

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Persistent hiccups (lasting more than 48 hours) can be sometimes represent a serious health problem. Not only are they irritating, but they also may be indicative of an underlying medical issue ranging from ulcers to malaria.

11. Many effective home remedies result in more CO2 in the bloodstream.

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Such CO2 increasing remedies include: Rapidly swallowing water or ice chips, breath holding, and rebreathing from a paper bag.

Raising the CO2 levels in your bloodstream actually increases its acidity. This results in the release of calcium ions in the blood. The calcium ions can block some of the activity of the nervous system, which can serve to relax or block muscle spasms including hiccups.

12. Despite their mysteries, we do have a sense of what can lead to hiccups.

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Some causes include too much gas in the stomach, rapid eating, carbonated beverages, and stress. These things can irritate the esophagus, which often leads to hiccups.

13. Here's one ~SCARY~ video that might cure you of some hiccups:

View this video on YouTube

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It may be a video of a rudimentary computer game, but for some reason it has impressive hiccup removing abilities.

SPOILER ALERT, in case you can't watch the video:

Many claim that the experience of being shocked or frightened helps cure a bout of hiccups. While there is no hard science to back up why this might work, some argue that it could work by essentially distracting your brain from sending signals that cause muscle spasms and by causing you to gasp, jumpstarting normal breathing patterns.

Next time you get the hiccups, take a moment to contemplate what a beautiful scientific mystery it is — just like this dog presumably does multiple times a day:

America's Funniest Home Videos / Via youtube.com

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