The diaphragm is a muscle that separates the abdomen from the thorax in humans. When this muscle gets stimulated by the Vagus or Phrenic nerves, it starts to contract involuntarily, causing the vocal cords to close. That’s what causes the embarrassing hic-hic-hiccups!
Severe nerve irritation can cause them to continue for more than 48 hours, indicating the need for medical attention. However, usually, the hiccups go away in a little while. Over time, people have created different (and quite frankly very creative!) ways to stop their hiccups. From holding your breath to drinking from the opposite side of the glass, we’ve all tried these innovative methods to get rid of this pesky condition. None of these are based on scientific facts though, and a foolproof way to stop hiccups is long overdue.
The Hiccup Straw
Recently, Dr. Ali Seifi, a neurosurgeon from the University of Texas, designed a straw called HiccAway, to stop hiccups. The straw is a forced inspiratory suction and swallow tool (FISST). When you drink from it, negative pressure builds in the thorax which encourages the diaphragm to stop contracting.
A study published in JAMA evaluated the straw’s efficacy on 290 global participants for 4 months. They recruited these volunteers through a campaign on the website “Kickstarter” in 2020. Of these volunteers, 69.5% said that they experienced hiccups at least once monthly. 65.9% of these people said their hiccups lasted less than 2 hours. The authors aimed to determine the participant’s satisfaction with the straw compared to traditional remedies. They found that using the straw helped stop hiccups in 92% of the cases. Moreover, 249 participants rated it better than other methods on the online questionnaire provided by the authors.
The authors of the study concede that it is limited by the lack of a control group that could provide an unbiased comparison for the device. Additionally, the “subjective nature of the scoring system” may also give a biased result. However, they believe that the study’s large sample size and “broad applicability of the results” add to its merits. Furthermore, they recommended a follow-up with a randomized clinical trial to further confirm the FISST straw’s efficacy.