A straw to stop hiccups

What’s your home remedy for hiccups? Holding your breath, drinking water upside down, having a fright, giving up and accepting your fate as a permanent hiccupper?

Have no fear, help is now at hand – US researchers have come to the rescue, with a straw their research shows can stop transient hiccups.

The straw is a rigid tube with a pressure valve at the base. Created and patented by one of the researchers, and developed commercially with the help of a Kickstarter campaign, it’s designed to be difficult to suck water through.

Users are instructed to suck around 100 millilitres of water through the straw (or 50 millilitres for children), noting they will encounter some resistance. When they suck the water up, the motion makes the user contract their diaphragm and then close their epiglottis (flap of cartilage located in the throat behind the tongue and in front of the larynx), forcing their hiccups to stop.

“The hiccups are usually expected to stop instantly in one to two attempts,” write the researchers in a paper published in JAMA Network Open.

The researchers, who are based at the University of Texas, US, tested the super-straw’s efficacy by sending it to 249 regular hiccuppers for evaluation. More than two-thirds of the study participants (69.5%) had hiccups at least once a month, with most (65.9%) having bouts that lasted less than 2 hours.

The design of the hiccup-curing straw.
The design of the hiccup-curing straw. Credit: Alvarez et al., 2021, JAMA Network Open, doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.13933

A large majority of the participants (90.1%) rated the straw favourably when compared with home remedies to stop hiccups. No adverse effects were reported.

“Home remedies to relieve transient hiccups, such as breath holding, recycled breathing in a paper bag, and drinking water from the far side of a glass, are plagued by unclear instructions, inconsistent performance, and poor effectiveness. There is a need for a simple and effective method to stop hiccups,” write the authors in their paper. They suggest their low-cost straw is a solution to this.

The researchers point out that their study lacked a control group, as well as using a self-selecting sample of people who were subjectively rating their conditions. They plan to test the efficacy of their straw further with randomised control trials.

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