Did You Know

What Causes Hiccups?

Hiccups are a symptom of involuntary contractions of the diaphragm.

You’re enjoying a delicious meal. Each bite tastes better than the one before it. You barely have time to take in a breath before you put another forkful in your mouth. As you quickly eat, the inevitable happens...hiccups. Why did the hiccups have to happen in the middle of a great dinner? Why do they happen at all, and what can we do to prevent them? This article will highlight why we get hiccups, but also how to prevent and stop them once they’ve happened.

Hiccups are a symptom of involuntary contractions of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle that separates your chest from your abdomen. It helps you breathe. Every time the diaphragm contracts, it causes the vocal cords to close. The closing of the vocal cord makes the “hic” sound that accompanies the short breath. Hiccups may come with a small sensation of the chest, abdomen, or throat tightening. Hiccups are short-lived most of the time. Women and men get hiccups equally often, but it’s more common for men to get hiccups lasting more than 48 hours. Hiccups even happen to a fetus that is still in utero. The medical word for hiccups is singultus, which is Latin for “gasp” or “sob.” It is only necessary to see a doctor if the hiccups last longer than 48 hours, or they are severe enough to disrupt eating, sleeping, or breathing

A variety of situations causes hiccups. 

  • Eating too much hot or spicy food
  • Eating very quickly and taking in too much air with the food
  • Drinking carbonated beverages like soda or alcoholic drinks
  • Being very scared or excited
  • Having a stressful situation happen or one that stirs up deep emotions
  • Certain medications like benzodiazepines or medications for acid reflux.

Most of the time, hiccups can be taken care of in these ways.

  • Holding your breath for a few seconds
  • Quickly drinking a glass of water.
  • Holding your tongue out of your mouth
  • Taking a bite of a lemon
  • Gargling water
  • Smelling salts
  • Putting half a teaspoon of sugar on the back of your tongue
  • Breathe slowly and concentrate on inhaling and exhaling

Hiccups are challenging to prevent entirely. Sooner or later, they are bound to happen. To try to avoid them by eating slowly and pacing yourself. Take deep breaths and let it out slowly. Avoid carbonated beverages. There are a few severe cases of hiccups, but they do happen. One cause of long-term hiccups is damage to the vagus or phrenic nerves. Those nerves help the diaphragm. Other reasons hiccups occur because of a tumor, infection, or damage truth to the central nervous system, which is your body’s control of the hiccup reflex. Metabolic disorders and drugs may also be a cause of long-term hiccups. Some people have had more severe hiccups after receiving general anesthesia or having abdominal surgery.

Doctors can prescribe some medications for severe, chronic hiccups. Surgery of the Phrenic nerve is a last resort to stop them.

The next time you feel hiccups starting, take a deep breath, pace yourself during an activity, and relax your body.

 

About the Author

Susanna is a writer from Wisconsin. She loves to spend time in the outdoors, read, do craft projects, and play with her kids.

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