7 Mind-Blowing Facts You Never Knew About Hiccups

Hiccups may be super annoying when you have them, but the science behind this weird body function is super interesting.

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1. The Medical Term for Hiccup is Singultus

The word singultus is Latin for "to catch one's breath while crying." The blog Medical Student's Diaries defines the motion of a hiccup as the involuntary contraction of the diaphragm, occurring at the same time as the contracting of the voice box, and the closure of the glottis, which together blocks air intake. The glottis is located in the middle part of the larynx, where the vocal cords are, and when it snaps shut, it causes that telltale hiccup noise.

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2. Hiccups Have Many Different Causes

Hiccups can be caused by shock, stress, alcohol consumption, smoking, a sudden change in temperature, excitement, and overeating. Many of these things irritate the esophagus, which can triggers the hiccups.

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3. Hiccups Should Be Short-Lived

If your hiccups last for two days or more, you could be at risk for serious health problems. Hiccups that won't quit could signal a range of medical conditions including ulcers, malaria, and even cancer.

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4. Humans Aren't the Only Ones Who Hiccup

Most mammals hiccup, surprisingly. But humans tend to hiccup more than any other animal. It's more common for babies to get hiccups than adults, and fetuses are known to hiccup in the womb.

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5. Home Remedies for Hiccups Aren't Proven

There is no slam-dunk remedy for hiccups—except a prescription medicine. So don't worry if such tactics as trying to scare yourself, hold your breath, or drink a glass of water upside down don't work for you. Many hiccup home remedies, such as breathing into a paper bag, release calcium ions into the blood to block nervous system activity. That might cause a decrease in muscle spasms, but it's not definite and it isn't guaranteed to make your hiccups stop.

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6. No One Knows Why Hiccups Exist

Some scientists say that hiccups are a trait left over from our evolutionary past—that the muscles that make us hiccup were originally intended for our gills, according to Buzzfeed. Others say that hiccups help fetuses prepare for breathing by exercising their muscles.

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7. The Longest Case of Hiccups Lasted for 68 Years

A normal episode of hiccups lasts a few minutes, but a man named Charles Osborne had hiccups from 1922 to 1960, until he was 96 years old. They stopped one year before he died.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest