Advertisement

Health and Medicine

The Man Who Had Constant Hiccups For 68 Years Straight

author

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockJul 15 2021, 15:02 UTC
Bolsonaro is in hospital after hiccuping for 10 days. They can last a lot longer than that.

Bolsonaro is in hospital after hiccuping for 10 days. They can last a lot longer than that. Image credit: Marcelo Chello

Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, has been hospitalized due to hiccups that have lasted for 10 days, accompanied by abdominal pain. 

Advertisement

“I apologize to everyone who is listening to me, because I’ve been hiccuping for five days now,” Bolsonaro said in an interview with Radio Guaiba, nearly a week before he was hospitalized. “I have the hiccups 24 hours a day.”

Hiccuping for this long may sound like hell, but spare a moment's thought for Charles Osborne, who hiccuped for 68 years, earning himself a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

In 1922, Charles Osborne was attempting to weigh a pig. He picked up the 158-kilogram (350-pound) hog, and immediately fell to the floor. From then on, he [hic] went through [hic] life having his [hic] thoughts [hic], food consumption and [hic] sentences interrupted by [hic] constant hiccuping. See how annoying that is?

The hiccups started at around 40 hiccups per minute for the first few decades, before slowing down to a cool 20 hiccups per minute. By the end of his life, he was forced to blend his food into a smoothie, unable to swallow whole food between hiccups.

Advertisement

Hiccups can be caused by all sorts of medical problems, not just drinking too much or eating spicy food. In 2007, a 23-year-old from England began hiccuping every few seconds for years, ruining his chance to further his career in music, and having a large impact on his quality of life.

“I was desperate to play piano or guitar,” he said in 2010. “I have all this music in my head all the time but I wasn’t able to play it. I would start to play, then the hiccups would start up and I would vomit. It was so disheartening not to do what I love.”

Following media attention, a television show paid for him to see a specialist in Japan, who immediately found the cause of the problem: a tumor in his brainstem. Once it was removed, the hiccups stopped immediately.

Advertisement

Bolsonaro's recent hiccups are likely caused by a bowel obstruction, according to reports.

Charles Osborne always believed that his hiccups were caused by the fall. His doctor told him some years later that he had "busted a blood vessel the size of a pin" in his brain, damaging the part that inhibited his hiccup response. 

Other than a lot of media attention, which included appearances on The Tonight Show, he lived a fairly normal life, raising eight children and having a long and successful career. 

Advertisement

 Then, In February 1990, his hiccups just... stopped. A year later, he died.

 


 THIS WEEK IN IFLSCIENCE

Receive our biggest science stories to your inbox weekly!


Health and Medicine
  • hiccups,

  • World records,

  • Jair Bolsonaro,

  • weird and wonderful

ABOUT THE AUTHOR