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A weekly show where we debunk common misconceptions. This week, Elliott discusses some misconceptions about getting rid of hiccups!


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Hi, I'm Elliot this is mental_floss video. Today I'm gonna talk about some misconceptions about getting rid of *hic* hiccups.

(theme music)

Okay I'm gonna start by saying that experts still aren't even sure why and how we get the hiccups. They believe it involves the vagus nerve, central processor and diaphragm.

So most treatments at this point are just old wives' tales. We may not discover whether anything is an effective remedy until hiccups are studied and understood more, but scientists supposedly have better things to work on.

It's possible that someday an item on this list will no longer be considered a misconception, and if that's the case: sorry future people, but you don't have to deal with hiccups anymore so you're really coming out on top. Everybody wins, you guys.

And with that said misconception number 1: hold your breath.

The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine conducted a study on hiccups from 1995 to 2000. They tested various remedies on 54 hospital patients who had the hiccups and holding one's breath was not found to be an effective cure.

 According to Tyler Cymet, who conducted the study, -quote- "People have very interesting interventions...but these aren't based in science."


Some say that holding your breath and increasing carbon dioxide intake might help decrease persistent hiccups but there hasn't been a study that proves this yet.

Misconception number 2: Have someone scare you

This is another remedy that Cymet tested in his study. Side note: I'm so glad I was not a participant in the study. That sounds awful, scaring people is really mean.

Anyway he found this one to be ineffective too and there is yet to be a study that proves this works.

Misconception number 3: Breathe into a paper bag

This one is related to holding your breath. A lot of people thinks this technique helps increase carbon dioxide, therefore might help get rid of hiccups.

But according to a scientific review published in the journal Anesthesia Progress breathing into a paper bag falls into the category that treatments that are -quote- "anecdotal or are based on dated publications that have failed scientific scrutiny." 

Still the author notes that doing this won't harm the patient, so they can try it if they want. That's always the best, when scientists are like, "Yeah go for it." 

Misconception number 4: Drink a lot of water.

This is what I do and it works 80-90% of the time. Bring it, scientists.

Some people recommend sipping water, chugging water, even eating ice chips. And this is another treatment listed in the article I just mentioned. 

Basically it won't hurt you but there's also no evidence that it's effective. Unless you've met me. Hi. 


Misconception number 5: Lemon with bitters.

This one actually had some promising results in one study so hey, that's exciting. In 1981 two men had an 88% rate of curing hiccups by feeding participants a lemon wedge soaked in Angostura bitters. 

So why is it on this list? Well, the study only had 16 participants and it wasn't placebo controlled. Even if it is effective, there's a condition - the hiccups have to be caused by alcohol.

Misconception number 6: Acupuncture.

There are a handful of studies that do claim acupuncture is effective in getting rid of hiccups, but experts point out that these aren't blind or placebo controlled studies. 

And many will also say that acupuncture is considered just as effective a treatment for hiccups as a placebo is. 

Misconception number 7: hiccup lollipops.

Apparently there's a product known as hiccupops which contain water, sugar and apple cider vinegar. It's said that vinegar can cure hiccups, but there's no science behind that. 

Are you guys picking up on a pattern here? Do you see what's happening? The product is marketed as a hiccup cure and the company claims that their product has an 80% success rate. 

But there's no scientific evidence. Even on their website they specify that they plan to conduct clinical research, but haven't yet.

That's expensive guys, give them some time. I doubt the hiccupops are flying off the shelves.


Misconception number 8: Hypnotherapy.

There have been a few instances in which an individual claims to be cured of hiccups thanks to hypnotherapy.

But when experts reviewed all the studies and literature on this, there's not enough, say it with me, evidence to prove that it's effective treatment. Nailed it.

Misconception number 9: Medication.

If someone has very persistent hiccups it's possible that their doctor will prescribe them medication. Some that are used for this include chlorpromazine, baclofen and haloperidol.

But even still studies have yet to prove that any of these are consistently, say it with me, effective in the treatment of hiccups. You got it again.

Misconception number 10: There's a confirmed cure for hiccups

So there are some things that seem to produce results. Some studies indicate that eating a spoonful of sugar or peanut butter works.

Even orgasms and rectal massages are promising... for getting rid of hiccups, that is.

But according to one systematic review in 2012, -quote- "We searched for good quality studies that involved adult patients (18 or older) who had experienced hiccups for 48 hours or more. Our conclusion is that there is insufficient evidence to recommend a particular treatment for hiccups." 

Thank you for watching misconceptions on mental_floss video. If you have a topic for an upcoming misconceptions episode that you'd like to see, why don't you just let us know what it is down in the comments, and we'll check 'em out.


See you next week. Bye.