How to stop hiccups: The Hiccup Stick, according to its inventor

A Sacramento inventor is marketing a product that he says is the first tool ever for effectively stopping a case of the hiccups.

Chuck Ray dubbed his invention "The Hiccup Stick," which he developed two years ago. Sitting in his home office, Ray had a pen in his mouth and a case of the hiccups.

"I don't know what I was thinking, but I grabbed a glass of water and drank it with the pen still in my mouth," he said.

It didn't stop his hiccups, he said, but it did make a noticeable improvement.

Ray began working with a friend with access to a 3-D printer, searching for something that would work better than the pen. Using himself as a test subject, he hit upon the Hiccup Stick. He soon quit his job and now works full time as CEO of Hicural, the company he created to market his invention. It's a two-man operation; Ray works with Chief Operating Officer Marc Cheiken.

The product has been available online through cvs.com, drugstore.com and Hicural's website for roughly four months. Ray said he's sold about 3,000 of the devices, which go for $7.99 or less.

Users place the stick lengthwise across their mouths, bite down, and drink a glass of water. It can be used repeatedly, though the company advises owners not to share it.

Ray said the device works by opening the throat and mixing air and water in the same swallow. "This restarts breathing," he said.

Does it work? Not everyone is convinced.

Dr. Mark Vaughan of Auburn Medical Group in Auburn, Calif., said he sees no scientific reasoning for the claimed success of the device.

"I don't see why this would work any better than getting scared or standing on top of your head," Vaughan said. He said the hiccups are a self-limiting problem; eventually they go away by themselves. "If it stops naturally, almost anything you make up can essentially work."

Ray is not discouraged by the skepticism.

"It isn't a cure for the hiccups, because they can always come back," he said, "but it has always stopped anyone's current hiccups."

Certain of its effectiveness, Ray said he'd like to get the Hiccup Stick in hospitals. That would require approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

But FDA spokeswoman Mary Ellen Taylor said the stick, while it is a medical device, is not subject to agency approval. "We don't have any classification for hiccup devices," she said.

Hicural has treated the product as a Class 1 device -- much like a toothbrush -- claiming it poses no potential threat or harm. The packaging has two warnings -- one restricting use for children under 4 and one saying the device is "not intended to relieve cases of chronic hiccups."

Reviews on Hicural's website and independent blogs point to the same opinion: It works.

"I used to be nervous that my idea was stupid, that it wouldn't work for someone," Ray said. "That doesn't happen anymore, I'm never nervous."

Ray is currently working to get the device into a national chain store. He said he expects to have his product on major store shelves within six months. Hoping to earn some popularity and recognition for the Hiccup Stick, Ray plans to sell it at the upcoming California State Fair.

 

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service)

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