A man hiccupped for 68 years in a row: an incredible story of an American's life
Hiccups are a rather unpleasant phenomenon that causes considerable discomfort, but fortunately, they pass quickly enough. However, not for everyone. Science knows of a case where a man suffered from hiccups for 68 years.
But why does it occur? The Science Alert publication tells us more about the phenomenon of hiccups and its extreme cases.
What is hiccups and where does it come from
The process of hiccups begins with a reflex that causes a contraction of the respiratory muscles and vocal cords, which causes a person to make a characteristic sound. This reflex can be triggered by drinking alcohol, overeating, swallowing air while chewing, certain medications, or laughing.
There are single and serial hiccups, when the sound is repeated from 4 to 60 times per minute. Not much is known about why they occur, but we hiccup even in the womb. This allows scientists to assume that this is how the fetus prepares its muscles for independent breathing.
In medicine, this phenomenon is called singultus, which can be translated from Latin as "to take a breath while sobbing". Common ways to cope with hiccups include drinking water, gargling with cold water, breathing into a paper bag, holding your breath, and even hypnosis or acupuncture. None of these methods have been scientifically proven to be effective or safe.
Usually, hiccups can go away on their own without any intervention. For more difficult cases, a special straw called HicAway was developed by neuroscientists. People who have tried it on themselves have reported it as an effective tool, but it still needs further research.
Charles Osborne and chronic hiccups
Hiccups are considered chronic if they last for more than 48 hours - then they are called constant - or more than a month - they are already insurmountable. It can cause exhaustion, lead to weight loss and be a symptom of more serious health problems. These include, for example, central nervous system disorders, diabetes, complications from surgery, reflux, stroke or cancer, to name just a few of the possible causes.
In the case of chronic hiccups, it is important to see a doctor, as only a detailed examination can identify the cause. A small study showed that 80 per cent of patients with chronic hiccups had an abnormality of the oesophagus or stomach, and two-thirds of these cases were curable.
There is a case in medicine where a patient who presented with hiccups lasting three weeks was diagnosed with a heart attack. In a similar case, a patient had been hiccupping for four weeks. And a musician from England suffered from this phenomenon for three years until he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The operation helped to solve the problem.
As for Charles Osborne, on 13 June 1922, while working on a farm in Nebraska, he saw a pig and at that moment he suddenly started hiccupping. Nothing could stop it. No doctor could determine the cause of the phenomenon. Osborne was even treated with carbon monoxide and oxygen, but this only made him have difficulty breathing. Over time, he learnt to breathe in such a way as to minimise the hiccups, but he was unable to overcome them.
It stopped as suddenly as it had started. And also without any apparent reason. It happened in February 1990. And in May 1991, Charles Osborne died. Researchers estimate that he hiccupped about 430 million times during his life.
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