Hiccups are annoying. To get rid of them, we rely on remedies that often feel more silly than effective, like breathing into a paper bag, holding our breath, and pulling on our tongue. Now, scientists have developed a device called the “forced inspiratory suction and swallow tool” (FISST) that stops hiccups, sans paper bags and tongue-pulling.
Hiccups are triggered when something irritates the nerves controlling your diaphragm, a large muscle nestled beneath your lungs that regulates respiration, causing it to spasm. Air rushes into your lungs as a result of these spasms, which causes your epiglottis, a flap of cartilage that covers your windpipe during swallowing, to quickly close. This produces the audible “hic” that accompanies a hiccup.
The FISST consists of a drinking tube with a mouthpiece and a pressurized valve at the bottom — essentially a glorified straw. Users place the FISST into a glass of water, drink, and swallow. This suction and swallow sequence stimulates diaphragmatic contraction and epiglottis closure to end an hiccup episode. When researchers gave 249 people who reported having hiccups at least once a month a FISST and asked them to rank its effectiveness compared to home hiccup remedies, they found that the FISST stopped hiccups in nearly 92 percent of cases. People were also happier with the FISST than their go-to home techniques.
While these results are subjective, they provide encouraging evidence that the FISST relieves hiccups, and form a basis for assessing its efficacy in clinical trials down the line. If the FISST works as well as this study suggests, it could be a game-changer for folks experiencing transient and chronic hiccups alike.