In the history of hiccup attacks, Seth Dowell's claim to have suffered for months is not unheard of, but it is out of the ordinary. And doctors are stumped.
Dowell, a 21-year-old pharmacy technician, complained Friday he's been hiccuping about every 30 seconds — even in sleep — since he downed a deli sandwich too quickly last Aug. 23.
"It's not any kind of hoax," said Dr. Diana Banks, a neurologist at St. Mark's Hospital, who has been treating Dowell's "intractable" hiccups.
"We can't figure out where it's coming from," Banks said. "We're just going about it in a systematic way. We're running tests. So it is true."
Dowell's seemingly hopeless condition is drawing national curiosity and a proliferation of remedies that doctors joke is proof of their ineffectiveness.
Dowell's own family doctor has suggested acupuncture. And why not? Dowell says he has tried just about everything else, including drinking water upside down.
"Hiccup-fixer" Larry Nolan, a retired college professor in Durant, Okla., insists he has just the cure, a teaspoon blend of lime and lemon extract and oil he sells at $12 for a dozen. He's offering Dowell complimentary samples of "Hiccups Away."
"It's not 100 percent, of course. Nothing is," Nolan said. "There's cases of hiccups out there that nothing can stop, apparently. I hope Seth doesn't end up that way."
Says Dowell: "I tried the citrus thing, believe it or not." It didn't work. He's also tried medication, including muscle relaxants. They haven't worked.
Hiccups are caused by nerve-induced spasms of the diaphragm, a sheet of a muscle at the base of the lungs that can twitch and slam shut the vocal cords, producing the "hic."
Banks says Dowell's suffering isn't dangerous or painful, just uncomfortable and annoying.
"Some days are easier than others," Dowell says.
He's trying to stay upbeat, and he's provided some amusement for morning TV shows. On Friday he was waiting for a date from the Tonight Show.
"I don't know what I would do if I stopped hiccuping. It's just like getting up in the morning . . . HICCUP," Dowell says.