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Amazing Facts



Hiccoughing (yes, thatís the way hiccoughing is supposed to be spelled) is a reflex-quite like sneezing, coughing, snoring, vomiting and so on, though serving a much less weighty purpose. This little 'whup' is usually irrelevant, something our bodies do automatically in order to remove an irritation and become more comfortable. A hiccough does for us one of three things: help the stomach get rid of a bit of gas; relieve the esophagus of an irritation; or resolve a temporary and (harmless) loss of coordination between two nerves, namely, the phrenic nerves that control the movement of the diaphragm.
It does all this in -a kind of tiny 'air vomit.' The diaphragm tightens a bit, drawing air into the lungs. Then in a kind of spasm, the glottis (which works as a valve) closes as it tries to shut off this air. This turns the air into pockets of noise. Over and over they pop out-the not only mostly irrelevant, but often irreverent, hiccoughs.
It is not funny at all for some people, of course, especially the ones you see on nationwide TV. because they have persisted in their hiccoughs. The record sufferer may be a man who has been hiccoughing since 1922. His almost unimaginably rare condition is thought to be caused by severe phrenic nerve irritation. Electrical stimulation or even the cutting of one of the phrenic nerves in the diaphragm is required for such a sufferer to reach quiet and to eat and sleep normally.
A loud 'boo' cannot help these hyper-hiccoughers as it sometimes does you and me. Any distraction has, in fact, the potential to help with ordinary hiccoughs, and so does any forced concentration on something else (such as counting slowly or sipping water). But distraction by fear is an excellent resort because it creates an overflow reaction in the sympathetic nervous system (the one associated with emotions); this can somehow swamp the hiccough reaction masterminded by the parasympathetic (or unconscious) nervous system. Perhaps you'll even have a bit of syncopation in the hiccough finale.
Some funny-folk-cures work too. Make yourself gag, tug on your tongue, gargle water, stroke the carotid artery (the place that pulses in your neck), taste something bitter, massage the roof of your mouth. The probable reason these tricks seem to work is that the short-term hiccough is just that-and was probably going to go away anyway. You simply ate or drank too fast and swallowed air or suddenly got excited.
A somewhat less helpful method for stopping the hiccoughs was offered by Francis Bacon in his scientific writings: 'It hath been observed by the Ancients, that sneezing doth cease the hiccough.' But, after all, isn't it harder to make yourself sneeze than to make yourself stop hiccoughing? just let the hiccoughs go away by themselves.

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