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BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 01 November 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:0111429

Any cures for Hipo Hik Hoquet?

  1. Diego Kaski, fourth year medical student1
  1. 1University College London

Diego Kaski investigates

Since the time of Hippocrates, hiccups have intrigued doctors, philosophers, and the public alike. Given their familiarity, it is surprising that their purpose remains largely unknown. In fact, it is commonly believed that hiccups are at best a useless biological quirk, and a nuisance at worst. However, it seems strange that such a complex and impeccably coordinated reflex does not serve a purpose.

Hiccups are experienced by fetuses, children, and adults. In the fetus, they may be present after the eighth week of gestation and tend to persist after birth in premature infants.1 Brief hiccup episodes are common among healthy children and adults but do not usually require medical intervention. Chronic hiccups, defined as lasting over 48 hours, are rare but can be exceptionally distressing. The record for the longest hiccupping fit is held by an American, Charles Osborne, who began hiccupping in 1922 and continued for 68 years--over 430 million hiccups! 2 Prolonged or recurring spells may cause depression, weight loss, insomnia, and exhaustion. Chronic hiccups seem to occur more frequently in men than women. Possible reasons for this remain unclear but there may be a genetic predisposition …

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