HiccAway: doctors invent $14 straw guaranteed to stop hiccups

Forget holding your breath or getting a fright, this simple device can help solve the annoying problem

Drinking water is often touted as a way to help stop hiccups. Unsplash / Damir Spanic
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There are many old wives’ tales claiming to have the cure for hiccups. From holding your breath, drinking water upside down or getting a fright, people have tried many ways to rid themselves of hiccups, but none have ever been proven to work.

Scientists have now developed what they claim to be a guaranteed way to cure the spasm – caused by the diaphragm and intercostal muscles suddenly contracting – and it comes in the form of a $14 plastic straw.

The "forced inspiratory suction and swallow tool" (Fisst), or HiccAway, as it's patented, is a solid, L-shaped device that has a mouthpiece at one end and an adjustable cap with a small pressure valve at the other.

When someone has hiccups, they simply place the device into a glass of water and sup through it.

This sipping motion, with the added pressure valve, engages the phrenic nerve to trigger a contraction of the diaphragm, while swallowing engages the vagus nerve, which are both needed for the body to hiccup.

The idea behind the Fisst is that, by keeping both nerves busy, the body is unable to produce hiccups.

“It works instantly and the effect stays for several hours,” said Dr Ali Seifi, associate professor at the University of Texas Health Science Centre, co-author of a study into the device.

The study used 249 volunteers from around the world, the majority of whom said they suffered from hiccups at least once a month.

The results of the study, published in the Jama Network Open journal, found that the device stopped hiccups in 92 per cent of cases, with more than 90 per cent of participants saying they found it much more convenient than home remedies used before.

Authors found the results to be consistent across all participants, regardless of demographics, hiccup frequencies or hiccup durations.

However, the report relied on self-assessment by participants via an online survey, which places some limitations on results.

“Many home remedies consist of physical manoeuvres designed to stimulate contraction of the diaphragm and/or closure of the epiglottis. These manoeuvres lack clear, standardised instructions and can be cumbersome to perform, and there are few, if any, scientific studies of their effectiveness,” the study states.

"Fisst is an easy-to-use tool to relieve transient hiccups. The sample of participants who responded to the online questionnaire associated the device with superior results compared with home remedies. Future studies will need to assess the efficacy of Fisst in randomised clinical trials."