Claim: A strand of wool on the head stops hiccups.
Verdict: False. Although several techniques/tricks are suggested to eliminate hiccups, placing a thread or wool on the head is not one of them.
The involuntary contractions of the diaphragm, popularly known as hiccups, can result from a large meal, carbonated beverages or sudden excitement.
Everyone must have had an experience with hiccups at one point or another, and for most people, it is usually not severe and lasts only a few minutes.
Recently, a Facebook user, Esther Mark, while sharing her experience with hiccups, insinuated a strand of wool stops hiccups.
“I quickly touched my head, and what did I find? A strand of wool on my hair to obviously stop the hiccup,” part of her post read.
This belief is an age-long one held by many in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. Many today still believe this, as seen in a Twitter poll conducted by this researcher. From the poll result, 43% of the respondents believe this claim, 38% do not, and 19% are neutral.
This belief most likely informed the decision of the Facebook user’s husband. But how true is it? The popularity of this belief and requests prompted us to verify it.
The medical term for hiccups is singultus. Lifestyle factors like eating too much or too quickly, consuming carbonated drinks and spicy foods, being stressed or emotionally excited, drinking alcohol, or being exposed to quick changes in temperature could cause it.
These types of hiccups can usually be prevented by changing your habits, like eating smaller amounts per serving, eating slower, avoiding spicy foods, drinking less alcohol, avoiding carbonated drinks, and practising relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, to reduce stress.
When hiccups become severe and last more than two days causing problems with eating, sleeping or breathing, it is time to see a doctor as it may be a sign of underlying medical conditions like gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), stroke or multiple sclerosis.
An article by health line suggests posture techniques that can help relax the diaphragm, which is responsible for hiccups. Some of these techniques include measuring breathing, holding your breath, breathing into a paper bag, hugging your knees, and compressing the chest. An article by the United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) agrees with some of these techniques.
Studies have also revealed having an orgasm, and rectal massage are potential treatments for intractable hiccups. In severe cases, medications like baclofen (Gablofen), chlorpromazine (Thorazine) and metoclopramide (Reglan) are prescribed.
According to the National Organisation for Rare Diseases (NORD), treating intractable hiccups often involves drug therapy with chlorpromazine (Thorazine), haloperidol, and metoclopramide. If the hiccups occur during anaesthesia or surgery, the treatment is usually ephedrine or ketamine. Hypnosis has been used in some patients, as well as acupuncture.
The NORD also added that surgical procedures, such as injections into the phrenic nerve or severing the phrenic nerve in the neck, have been used in cases where all other therapies have failed.
Although several techniques or tricks have been suggested to eliminate hiccups, placing a thread or wool on the head is not part of it.
Also, looking at the cause of hiccups shows no relationship between a strand of wool/thread on the head and hiccups.