7 surprising things you probably didn't know about hiccups

Timur Emek / ContributorHiccups, though likely not a big deal, can be annoying.
  • Hiccups, though quite common, are rather mysterious to scientists.
  • They can be caused by anything from stress to changes in temperature to smoking cigarettes.
  • Humans aren’t the only ones to get hiccups – animals can as well.

Hiccups can be incredibly frustrating – especially since they seemingly come out of nowhere. Despite being a common occurrence, scientists still aren’t entirely sure why hiccups happen or how to cure them.

They do know, however, that the sensation occurs when a person tries to breathe in but an involuntary diaphragm spasm causes their vocal cords to instead, snap shut.

From the strange things that might cause them to their technical term, here are seven things you probably never knew about hiccups.

The technical term for hiccups is ‘singultus’

The technical term for hiccups is singultus which comes from the Latin word “singult” meaning to catch your breath while sobbing.

Hiccups can be caused by anything from stress to changes in temperature

Stress ball squeezeArtotem/FlickrStress might cause hiccups.

Although hiccups can seemingly come out of nowhere, chances are there’s a reason you’re experiencing the annoying condition. According to Harvard Health Blog, hiccups can be caused by heightened emotions such as excitement or stress, smoking cigarettes, or even abrupt changes in either external or internal temperatures.

They can also be brought on when you eat too much food or drink too much alcohol – both of which expand the stomach and irritate the diaphragm. It’s also possible to get hiccups by swallowing too much air.

Chronic hiccups may be a sign of disease

For most people hiccups last no longer than a couple of minutes and are nothing more than an annoyance. There are, however, instances where hiccups can last days, weeks, and even years. Dubbed chronic hiccups, they can signify a greater medical problem.

For example, chronic hiccups could indicate pancreatitis, pregnancy, bladder irritation, liver cancer or hepatitis. They could also be a sign of pneumonia, bowel diseases, or alcoholism. Because the list of potential diseases is so long, it’s best to consult your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing prolonged hiccups.

Medications can reduce hiccups

Pills flickrJamie/FlickrMedications are an option for people dealing with hiccups.

Though you’ve likely heard of hiccup home remedies such as hugging your knees, breathing into a bag, or popping your ears, there are some actual medications specifically given to people dealing with hiccups.

Read more:

10 hiccup remedies that actually work

According to a 2011 review from The College of Family Physicians of Canada antipsychotic medications are often prescribed to treat hiccups. These include chlorpromazine (the only FDA-approved medication for hiccups) and haloperidol – both of which prevent the excess of dopamine. Defoaming agents are also sometimes prescribed, especially metoclopramide, which helps to empty the stomach.

The longest bout of hiccups lasted from 1922 until February 1990

According to BBC, Anthon, Iowa-native Charles Osbourne hiccuped for a total of 68 years. The story goes that he first hiccuped while attempting to weigh a hog. He reportedly hiccupped up to 40 times a minute at one point, later slowing down to 20 times a minute.

Human babies can hiccup in the womb

According to Healthline, it’s possible for a baby to hiccup in the womb during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. Although doctors aren’t entirely sure why this happens – or why people hiccup in general – it’s thought that fetal hiccups could play a role in a baby’s lung maturation.

Animals can get the hiccups as well

Kitten small cat volunteering animalsiStockKittens do get hiccups, though you might not hear them.

Like humans, animals can also get hiccups – and likely for the same reasons humans do. Just as irritation to the diaphragm causes humans to hiccup, animals with similar breathing systems can experience the same sensation. These hiccups, however, might sound different depending on the animal. Kittens, for example, hiccup quietly but horses get particularly loud hiccups.

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