ABOVE: The HiccAway straw

A study published June 18 in JAMA Network Open shows 90.8 percent of 249 study participants using a new hiccup intervention called a “forced inspiratory suction and swallow tool (FISST)” say the device was more effective at stopping hiccups than were home remedies such as breathing into a paper bag or being scared by a friend.

“It works instantly and the effect stays for several hours,” study coauthor Ali Seifi of the University of Texas (UT) Health Science Center at San Antonio tells The Guardian.

Hiccups happen when the diaphragm, the large muscle that sits under the lungs, suddenly spasms, causing the larynx to contract and closing the epiglottis—the little flap that covers your windpipe when swallowing to prevent food and liquid from getting into the airways.

For most people, hiccups are annoying at best and embarrassing at worst. “But for others they significantly impact quality of life,” including cancer patients and people with brain injuries, says Seifi, who invented and patented the device, branded as HiccAway, in a press release. HiccAway was licensed to Aim Dynamics, Inc, which funded the study through a Kickstarter campaign.

HiccAway, which sells for $14, looks like a thick milkshake straw, but has only a tiny opening at the bottom, so the user has to suck hard to be able to drink from it. The heavy suction forces the diaphragm to contract, preventing it from spasming, and also forces the epiglottis to close—ultimately preventing hiccups.

Rhys Thomas, a neurologist at Newcastle University who was not involved in the study, tells The Guardian the HiccAway works by the same principles behind many home remedies. “Anything that allows you to inflate your chest and swallow will work—the key down the back, the ‘boo!’ and the fingers in the ears will do that to a certain degree,” he says.

Illustration of the HiccAway straw
J. Alvarez et al., JAMA Netw Open. 4:e2113933, 2021 

The study subjects were recruited through the online Kickstarter campaign last year. They self-reported how effective the HiccAway was at eliminating hiccups compared to home remedies and also rated how easy it was to use. Although this study was limited by the self-reported results and having no control group, Seifi is planning a double-blind clinical trial to test how effective HiccAway is at preventing hiccups, according to the UT Health press release.