Hiccups occur when the intake of air is restricted momentarily. This happens when the diaphragm abruptly contracts simultaneously with “a contraction of the voice box, or larynx, and a total closure of the glottis.” In simpler terms, when the diaphragm muscles spasm, the vocal cord shut, and this is what causes them.
When this happens, air rushes into the lungs creating the ‘hic’ sound. This sound is where the term hiccup came from.
The medicine world refers to hiccups as “synchronous diaphragmatic flutter.” They can happen for no reason whatsoever. They also come once or in bouts, and as most of us know they are ‘rhythmic’ which means they happen at comparatively constant interludes.
Facts about hiccups
- They usually disappear or resolve themselves in a few minutes or less.
- They are rarely considered an emergency
- They are common, everybody goes through them
What causes hiccups?
Overeating or over drinking
The stomach is placed right below the diaphragm. Hiccups result when the stomach is expanded or bloated through eating too much or drinking too much, irritating the diaphragm. When this happens, it may cause a spasm as you breathe in.
Eating too fast
When a person eats too fast, they may end up swallowing excess air causing this synchronous diaphragmatic flutter problem. This is especially true when eating spicy food.
Ever noticed that drunk people hiccup frequently? Although the cause is not clear, the alcohol may encourage acid reflexes that irritate the esophagus which leads to this problem.
Drinking a soda too fast often triggers hiccups, although usually not a series of them. This may be because of the CO2 and the fizziness of the drink that may irritate the diaphragm.
Smoking or chewing nicotine gum
Smoking causes hiccups when a person swallows too much air too quickly. Nicotine gum, on the other hand, causes the throat muscles to constrict. Swallowing too much nicotine from the gum can also cause too much irritation leading to this problem.
- Other causes include sudden air temperature changes, excitement, and emotional stress, eating too hot or cold foods or aerophagia which occurs when you swallow too much air.
Medical conditions associated with condition:
These are some of the medical conditions that are connected to hiccups:
- Too much consumption of alcohol
- Respiratory conditions
- Conditions that disturb the central nervous system
- Gastrointestinal conditions
- Liver problems
- Kidney failure
- Parkinson’s disease
- And more…
Continuous or intractable hiccups
Intractable hiccups are continuous, nonstop hiccups. People can have them for hours or for days. However, although rare, they sometimes last for months. If you go over two months and you have persistent hiccups, then these are known as intractable synchronous diaphragmatic flutters. These can cause serious health problems such as:
- Stomach pain
- Lack of sleep
- Weight loss
- Spitting up blood
In this case, then its best to see a medical professional. Although the cause is unclear, they can be the result of problems such as “cancer, infection, and stroke to mental health problems.”
Common ways to get rid of hiccups
If you are wondering what to do for this synchronous diaphragmatic flutter problem or if there is a cure for hiccups, the truth is that they are common and only mildly annoying. Unless they recur often, or last too long these are the common hiccups solutions. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, Some of them are old wives tales, but they are well worth a try.
- Hold your breath
- Valsalva Manoeuvre- keep your mouth closed as you hold your nostrils closed as well and try to exhale
- To disturb your normal breathing pattern, breathe into a paper bag
- Drink iced water
- Take some granulated sugar
- Have a bite of lemon
- Have a little sour vinegar
- Lean forward or pull up your knees to your chest
- Drink a glass of water quickly
- Pull on your tongue
- Use smelling salts
- Gargle water
If you are wondering if there is hiccup treatment medication, there are. Although doctors are not quick to prescribe them. However, if there are no obvious causes then the doctor may prescribe these anti-hiccup medications:
- Seizure medication like Gabapentin
- Antihistamine such as Benadryl
- Muscle relaxants like Baclofen
Non-invasive surgical procedures
If there are no remedies, then there are some invasive procedures that are for ending extreme hiccup conditions:
- Anaesthetic injection for blocking the phrenic nerve
- Nasogastric intubation which is where a tube is inserted through the nose to the stomach
- Diaphragmatic pacemaker insertion to regulate breathing.
There are also more invasive options, which can be used to end extreme cases of hiccups.