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They are a nuisance and always seem to come at the most inconvenient times, but scientists may have discovered a purpose for hiccups.
The researchers, from University College London, observed incidents of hiccups in newborns and observed that each triggered a great wave of brain activity. The hiccups can be essential for the development of the baby, they concluded by helping the brain learn to control and regulate breathing.
"Our findings have led us to wonder if hiccups in adults, which seems to be mainly a nuisance, may (in fact) be a vestigial reflex, left over from childhood when it had an important function," said the study's lead author, research associate. Kimberley Whitehead commented.
So, is there really no purpose for them, now that we are all adults? And how do we do them stop? Dr. Roger Henderson, UK medical director of Liva Healthcare, says that hiccups (or hiccups, as they are sometimes called) is a reflex action that we cannot control, and points out that they have no real function for adults .
"They are caused by a sudden and involuntary contraction of the diaphragm muscle just below the lungs," he tells HuffPost UK. "This causes the upper part of the trachea (the glottis) to close, which causes the typical" hic "sound that everyone has heard."
People have short episodes of hiccups occasionally, he says, usually starting and stopping for no apparent reason. "Possible triggers include acute stress and excitement, overeating, drinking soda too fast, eating too fast, smoking and drinking alcohol and sudden temperature changes," he adds.
Persistent hiccups, defined as those that last more than 48 hours, are rare, but can cause emotional and physical distress in patients. "Possible causes of chronic hiccups include acid reflux, where the acid spills in the throat from the stomach, sometimes due to a hiatus hernia, strong pain relievers, steroids and tranquilizers, and diabetes," explains Dr. Henderson.
Unfortunately, there is no golden rule for curing hiccups, but Dr. Henderson says that most cases resolve themselves in a few minutes, as many of us know.
What about the other solutions that people suggest, like drinking water upside down? "There are a lot of anecdotal and popular home remedies that are said to cure hiccups, but in fact they have little basis," he says.
"Examples of this include holding your breath as long as you can, drinking ice water, sucking a lemon, and holding your breath when you push yourself out as if you are struggling to go to the bathroom." Even so, it would be worth a try.
If you are worried about regular chronic hiccups, it is better to talk to your GP, but for the rest of us, it could be a case of * hic * just waiting for them to happen.