Tag Archives: medicine

How do you cure the hiccups?

I have a hypothesis about hiccups. Specifically, I’m hypothesizing that the cures for hiccups run along family lines – in other words, which cure is most likely to work is somehow inherited. In my family, for example, a heaping spoonful of peanut butter works every time. For other families, a glass of water does the trick. Yet other people may cure their hiccups by being startled.

The problem, aside from the fact that I’m not a scientist and have no real connections to anybody in the medical world, is that I can think of only one way to test such a hypothesis: polling a large sample of the general population. I can’t imagine any way to do a controlled, double-blinded study, which is what I’d really like to see. You can’t give somebody a sugar pill and convince them it’s a glass of water. You can’t even (as far as I know) consistently cause hiccups in people, so even if you did find some way to do a controlled study, it would take forever to gather a significant number of samples.

The biggest problem with polling people, I think, is that it relies on self-reporting. Asking people what works and what doesn’t is, as a way of finding anything out, extremely vulnerable to peoples’ biases, preconceptions, and misconceptions. (See the Wikipedia article on superstition, subsection “Superstition and psychology“). People tend to link two actions if those actions happen sequentially, even if they actions are unrelated. Once this link is formed, it can be reinforced by confirmation bias and the placebo effect.

So, asking random people what kinds of hiccup solutions work is a really unreliable way to get good data, but I don’t know what else to try. I’m asking you: what works? How do you cure the hiccups? Does your family use a similar method? What about your friends, coworkers, et cetera? I’m asking these questions purely out of curiosity, not as part of any formal study. You can answer whenever you read this; there’s no end date.