Have you got the hiccups?

Have you got the hiccups?

Hiccups are strange things...

When was the last time you had hiccups? Did you drink lots of fizzy drinks over the school holidays? Did you eat your Christmas dinner too quickly? Did you know that eating too fast and drinking fizzy pop can give you hiccups?

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Drinking lots of fizzy drinks can cause hiccups

Doctors call hiccups "singultus". Hiccups happen when your diaphragm (the muscle underneath your ribcage that controls your breathing) suddenly contracts, causing air to be sucked into your lungs quickly. This means the flap at the top of your windpipe snaps shut, causing a hiccuping sound.

Question mark

Do you know why we hiccup?

Even doctors don't know why hiccups happen, although they think that eating too fast and drinking fizzy pop might cause hiccups. Doctors also don't know why we keep hiccuping once we've started.

The diaphragm is an involuntary muscle, so we can't control it like we can control our skeletal muscles (the muscles that help us move). This is good news when we're sleeping - what would happen if we were asleep and stopped telling the diaphragm to contract? We would stop breathing. However, it's not good news when we're hiccuping, because we can't tell the diaphragm to stop!

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Did you know that babies hiccup before they are born?

Doctors think that unborn babies hiccup to make sure their diaphragm is strong enough for them to breath air.

What can you do to make hiccuping stop? No one knows for sure. Some people think that breathing in deeply and holding your breath seems to work. Maybe the build up of carbon dioxide that happens when you hold your breath helps to stop the hiccups.

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Does holding your breath stop hiccups?

Other people think that drinking a glass of water quickly, or even backwards, can help. Or how about scaring someone? Some people think that giving someone a shock will stop hiccups. Next time you or someone you know has hiccups, try out several methods to see if any of them stop the hiccups. When you find a method that works once, try it out on the next person with hiccups and see if you can build up some evidence to show that your way of stopping hiccups really does work.

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