Scientists have created a tube for hiccups

The device to combat hiccups was developed by an international group of scientists. A special drinking tube allows you to simultaneously stimulate the diaphragmatic and vagus nerves, which are involved in hiccups, and this helps stop the attack. Although the tube has shown its effectiveness, not all experts agree that there is a need for such an invention at all.

There are many popular methods to get rid of hiccups, ranging from simple and popular — hold your breath, drink water — and ending with quite extravagant, for example, rectal massage. However, there are no clinically confirmed ones among them.

Hiccups occur with sudden contractions of the diaphragm and intercostal muscles. In this case, the air is sharply drawn in between the vocal folds with a characteristic sound. Hiccups can occur if you swallow food too quickly, drink too much, or simply freeze. Prolonged causeless hiccups can also be a symptom of various diseases, from encephalitis to heart attacks and brain tumors, so if hiccups occur frequently and do not go away for a long time, you should consult a doctor.

Neurosurgeon Ali Seifi of the University of Texas wondered how to beat chronic hiccups by observing patients in the intensive care unit.

“Hiccups affect many patients with traumatic brain injuries, strokes, and patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer,” he says.

So, one of the patients began to hiccup after brain surgery, the nurses tried to help him with folk methods, but it did not help much, and the patient only became more upset. And a few days after that, Seifi himself faced a bout of hiccups while speaking to students. At that moment, he decided that he needed to find a simple and effective solution.

Seifi and his colleagues developed the HiccAway drinking device — a rigid L-shaped tube with a mouthpiece at one end and a pressure valve in the form of a small hole at the other.

With hiccups, you need to drink water through this tube — according to the idea of the creators, the effort applied to drink involves the phrenic nerve, and the subsequent swallowing — the vagus nerve. They are both associated with hiccups, and if they are simultaneously affected, the hiccups should stop.

“Hypothetically, when these two nerves are busy, they don’t have time to get confused and cause hiccups,” Seifi says.

To evaluate the effectiveness of the tube, the scientists invited 249 volunteers, who, according to them, a hiccup at least once a month. It turned out that it allows you to stop hiccups in 92% of cases. More than 90% of the participants reported that the tube is more convenient than the traditional methods known to them, while most of them also added that it gives better results. A detailed report was published in the journal Jama Network Open.

“The device acts instantly, and the effect persists for several hours,” says Seifi.

However, the participants evaluated their condition themselves, and there was no control group in the study, so the results have yet to be rechecked.

“Future studies will need to evaluate the effectiveness of the tubule in randomized clinical trials,” the researchers report. They note that such tests have already begun in the United States, Japan, and Switzerland.

Most likely, the device will be useful and safe in terms of the risks of the spread of COVID-19, says neurologist Rhys Thomas from the University of Newcastle. However, the need for a tube is questionable.

“I think this is a solution to the problem that no one asked for,” he said, adding that there are other effective and inexpensive options. He himself, for example, in the case of hiccups, tightly plugs both ears and drinks a glass of water through an ordinary tube.

“Anything that allows you to expand your chest and swallow will work,” Thomas says.

Earlier, the Briton Chris Sands was able to recover from hiccups that lasted for several years. In his case, it was associated with a brain tumor and stopped when doctors removed about 60% of the tumor.

The record holder for hiccups was the American Charles Osborne. He started hiccupping in 1922 and didn’t stop for the next 68 years. Over the years, the frequency of hiccups decreased, but the hiccups stopped only a year before his death. However, Osborne led a normal life, worked, and even married and had children.

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Alexandr Ivanov earned his Licentiate Engineer in Systems and Computer Engineering from the Free International University of Moldova. Since 2013, Alexandr has been working as a freelance web programmer.
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Alexandr Ivanov

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