Why Do We Get Hiccups & How Do We Get Rid Of Them?

    Hiccups start out of nowhere, but they are rarely serious and do not cause a medical emergency. Still, hiccups can be very annoying and most people don’t know how to get rid of them. Ask someone who has had them during an office meeting or while having a passionate tête-à-tête. Even a fetus in a mother’s womb and newborns may experience hiccups.

    What Are Hiccups?

    You must have noticed the arch arrangement of your lower ribs. They are partly due to their structural design and partly due to the muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal one. The muscle is called the diaphragm. Hiccups are the involuntary contractions of this muscle. Sudden closure of your vocal cords following each contraction’s ending makes the typical “hic” sounds.

    Often hiccups go away as fast as they come. They usually fade away with DIY remedies. Sometimes, at the extreme end, they may continue for months at a stretch. This is a disease state that results in exhaustion from the continued muscle contraction. Patients lose weight during this condition. So if your hiccups do not subside after forty-eight hours or disrupt your sleep or breathing, then consulting a doctor is mandatory.

    Symptoms And Signs

    The signature hiccup sound and the associated muscle contraction are the only consistent signs and symptoms of hiccups. Sometimes, the chest tightening or breathing difficulties accompany an episode of a hiccup. Your abdomen or throat may also feel a tightening sensation if the hiccups are prolonged.

    Causes Of Hiccups

    The common causes of everyday hiccups are trivial. Some of the causes may include:

    • Too rapid consumption of carbonated beverages or drinking alcohol in excess
    • Consuming a heavy meal or taking an eating spree for an extended time (such as during a holiday or a leisure trip)
    • Eating too quickly with large bites and sips (swallowing air along with food)
    • Sudden excitement or emotional stress of any kind
    • Sudden changes in ambient temperature
    • Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy with swallowing of air
    • Overeating, especially of fatty or spicy food
    • Inhalation of harmful or toxic fumes
    • Intake of certain medications as drugs for acid reflux, and benzodiazepines as valium and Xanax

    Persistent hiccups that start complications like eating, breathing, or sleeping difficulties may have underlying causes. These include:

    1. Nerve damage or irritation

    An underlying cause of long-term hiccups is damage or continued irritation of the nerves supplying the diaphragm muscle, the vagus, or the phrenic nerve. It can be a disease or disorder arising from the liver, lungs, and other organs lying in close vicinity. Factors that may damage or irritate these nerves include:

    • Causes arising from lungs as pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, or pulmonary embolism
    • Anything irritating your eardrum
    • A tumor, cyst, or any growth in the neck as goiter
    • Causes arising from GIT as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), gastritis, peptic ulcers, pancreatitis, gall bladder ailments, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
    • Sore throat or laryngitis
    • Abdominal surgery irritating the vagus nerve
    • Chronic renal failure
    • Causes arising from the heart as pericarditis and even a heart attack
    1. Central nervous system disorders

    A tumor, infection, trauma, or any other cause of damage to your central nervous system may disrupt your body’s normal control of the hiccup reflex. Strokes or brain tumors affecting the brain stem may also cause hiccups. Some other examples include:

    1. Metabolic disorders and drugs

    Some other reasons for hiccups you cannot get rid of may include:

    • Alcohol abuse
    • Recent history of anesthesia
    • Use of barbiturates
    • Chronic diabetes
    • Electrolyte imbalance as may happen in dehydration
    • Kidney disease
    • Use of steroids
    • Tranquilizers intake

    Some risk factors make some people more prone to developing hiccups. In general, men are more at risk of contracting long-term hiccups than women. Mental issues or emotional states, anxiety, stress, and excitement can cause either short-term or long-term hiccups.

    How To Get Rid Of Hiccups

    Short-term hiccups are avoidable. Consuming food without any distractions and urgency or frenzy, avoiding spicy foods and carbonated drinks and going easy with alcohol consumption are some of the right dietary protocols to cut back chances on hiccups.

    If your hiccups continue for more than forty-eight hours or are accompanied by fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, cough with blood and shortness of breath, consult emergency services for help getting rid of them immediately.

    Some home remedies for hiccups include:

    • Holding your breath or breathing into a paper bag that retains carbon dioxide and helps relax the diaphragm muscles
    • Pulling hard on your tongue
    • Drinking cold water rapidly or drinking from the far side of the glass
    • Biting on a lemon
    • Gargling with ice-cold water
    • Suck on an ice cube
    • Smelling salt
    • Placing one and a half teaspoon of sugar or corn syrup at the back of your tongue for adults and children

    For a severe case of hiccups, your physician may prescribe you medication. These include Chlorpromazine (Thorazine), haloperidol (Haldol) and metoclopramide (Reglan). Some other hiccup-alleviating medications include muscle relaxants, sedatives, pain-killers and stimulants.

    If all other remedies fail, surgery of the phrenic nerve that supplies the diaphragm is the last resort. Very rarely, the situation reaches a stage requiring surgery.

    Hiccups can be irritating. If you are prone to the condition, adopting good eating habits can help avoid the problem. Not every home remedy may work, but there is one that is right for you. Persistent cases must be referred to a doctor to look into any possible underlying cause.

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