Sierra Pisenti used to get loud hiccups for hours. They disrupted her day, embarrassed her and sounded a bit like burps.
The 27-year-old mom tried gulping water, eating a spoonful of sugar and standing on her head.
“I’ve tried every method that I could think to look up and either make them go away temporarily or they go away but then, you know, the next day they’re back again,” Pisenti said.
An inexpensive device that some call a hiccup cure finally gave her some relief.
HiccAway was patented in 2017. A study recently published in the influential JAMA Network Open found it helped alleviate hiccups in more than 90% of people who used it, and worked better than home remedies.
Users do not need an extreme case of hiccups in order for it to work.
HiccAway is a plastic straw with a mouthpiece on one end and an adjustable pressure valve on the other. Adults need more pressure and children need less to suck and drink the water through the straw, allowing the brain to reset and the hiccups to vanish.
The device was found to work for adults and children. HiccAway costs $14 and is available from retailers including Amazon and Walmart.
HiccAway works best for those with regular hiccups, according to its inventor, Dr. Ali Seifi, a neurosurgeon.
Seifi began thinking about how to relieve hiccups as he saw a patient plagued by them after having brain surgery.
“The patient was so frustrated,” Seifi said. “Imagine somebody just had the brain surgery, but his hiccup was the main pain for him, not his brain surgery.”
As Seifi watched his son eat a McFlurry at McDonald's using a spoon, he got an idea.
“I noticed when he tried to drink or eat from this, he needed lots of pressure. And then it came to my mind that might be something I can use as a tool,” he said.
For several years, he experimented with different dimensions and suction pressure using 3D-printed samples. Finally, he found the right design and patented it.
Hiccups start with a spasm of the diaphragm muscle, located below the lungs. The spasm sends a pulse to the brain, and the brain sends a pulse into the throat, Seifi explained.
“So I was thinking if somehow at the same time I can keep these two muscles busy with something different, they may forget or they don’t have time enough to go to those spasms,” he said.
People who suffer from chronic hiccups may need medication or surgery, Seifi said.
There's big demand for help with hiccups; two of the top 10 health-related Google searches are questions about hiccups and how to get rid of them.
HiccAway made a difference for Pisenti. She now carries the device in her purse.
“Now I don’t feel like I have to be scared when I go out. I don’t have to go to my car or excuse myself to the bathroom, pretty much run away, because I’m so embarrassed,” Pisenti said. “All I got to do is just drink water and I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”