What Causes Hiccups

Hiccups, although fairly harmless, can be quite bothersome to have around. They are basically uncontrolled spasms of the diaphragm which are controlled directly by the phrenic nerve. When the diaphragm muscle contracts repeatedly, the flaps in the vocal cords can snap shut trapping the air inside the bronchial airway. Up until today, medical professionals still cannot fully explain why hiccups occur. But over their years of study, there are some interesting facts that they have learned about this bodily process. If you are interested to know, read on and find out for yourself.

Common Causes of Hiccups

As mentioned before, medical professionals still cannot explain why hiccups happen or what exact events cause them to surface. However, there are several common pre-disposing conditions that eventually lead to hiccups:

• Eating too fast. When you eat or swallow too fast, you tend to take in air as well. In the end, you’ll end up with a ball of air going up and down your throat producing hiccups.

• Eating and drinking too much. Eating and drinking a lot has been known to lead to hiccups as well. Munching on overly fatty foods can irritate the diaphragm, leading to this particular condition. People drinking too much, especially alcohol, can get very prone to hiccups, too.

• Distended stomach. Distended stomachs will eventually lead to hiccups. Medical experts believe that this is the body’s way of preventing you from choking when you take in too much food or drinks.

Persistent hiccups can be a sign of more serious conditions. They are usually observed in patients who have kidney failure, diabetes, electrolyte imbalance and several metabolic diseases. Some disorders can also involve the central nervous system (CNS) and even nerve damage and irritation.

Treatment Options

Hiccups commonly take place within several seconds to a few minutes. However, rare cases can occur when hiccups become persistent and longer-lasting. In this case, you are strongly advised to seek help from a medical professional as soon as you can. This is because long-term hiccups can be a sign of a more serious disease, affect your sleeping patterns and even decrease your appetite. Worst case scenarios can last for 3 hours and sometimes, they can also be associated with abdominal pains.

For cases of severe and persistent hiccups, doctors may recommend patients to take in medications such as Chlorpromazine, Baclofen and Phenytoin – a treatment for convulsion. Drastic measures can call for actual surgery where the phrenic nerve is disabled to put a stop to the spasm for good. When such cases do happen, patients are often required to go through several laboratory tests to determine the underlying cause of the condition.

However, for ordinary short-term hiccups, there are plenty of remedies that you can easily do at home to help get rid of hiccups.

• Holding your breath. Holding your breath can produce a build-up of carbon dioxide in your system which is believed to cure hiccups.
• Sudden drinking of liquid (preferably water). This stimulates the vagus nerve, which in turn can put a halt to the uncontrolled spasms.
• Pulling hard on the tongue. This also stimulates that vagus nerve, stopping muscle spasms in the diaphragm.
• Placing half a teaspoon of sugar at the back of the tongue.

Remember, these simple remedies may not work on everyone. There is still no scientific proof that these measures can actually put a halt to the muscle spasms. The best way to get rid of hiccups by far is to simply let them pass.

There is one anecdotal approach that involves the administration of a Xylocaine liniment in the external ear. This is expected to block a certain nerve triggering the reflex. Effects have been reported as immediate but short-term.

Hiccups Trivia

The person who was recorded to have the longest period of hiccups was Charles Osborne from America. He had the condition for 68 years, from 1922 all the way to 1990. The fastest hiccups were recorded to be at 50 times per minute by a teenager from Florida named Jennifer Mee. Her condition was associated to a kind of medical condition called the Tourette syndrome.

So even if hiccups can easily come and go, people are highly advised to keep their guard and to be observant of the duration that the condition occurs. If they happen to persist at abnormally long periods of time, seek help from a medical professional immediately for prompt diagnosis and early possible treatment.


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