One of the most annoying medical phenomena, hiccups affects all of us, but what are hiccups? And the accompanying "hic" sound? A hiccup is defined as an unintentional movement, or spasm, of the diaphragm - the muscle at the base of your lungs. The spasm is followed by a quick closing of the vocal cords, which in turn produces the distinctive "Hic" sound.
The medical term for hiccups is Synchronous Diaphragmatic Flutter (SDF), or singultus, which is Latin for the act of catching one's breath while sobbing. Hiccups are caused by involuntary diaphragm contractions, which make the vocal cords spasm. The contractions can be caused by a number of things like eating too much, drinking too much alcohol or carbonated beverages - even by stress or sudden changes in the temperature, according to the Mayo Clinic Website. Most people hiccup from 4 to 60 times per minute during an attack of the hiccups, everyone has a specific lifelong hiccup pattern. Hiccups are only found in mammals, and are most common in infants.
The average hiccups last from a few minutes to a couple of hours, however some people have been known to suffer from hiccuping episodes that last days, months or even years. According to Guinness World Records, the record for hiccuping continuously is held by Charles Osborne, from Anthon, Iowa, USA. He hiccuped continuously for 68 years, from 1922 to 1990!
Common Hiccup Causes
- Harmful fumes
- Swallowing air
- Abdominal surgery
- Talking or laughing
- Drinking carbonated beverages
- Stroke or tumor affecting the brain
- Consuming very hot or very cold foods
- Eating too much - especially spicy food
- Nervousness, anxiety or over excitement
- Gastroesophageal reflux - Gerd, or Heatburn - (stomach acid backing up into the esophagus)
- A disease or disorder that irritates the nerves that control the diaphragm (such as pleurisy or pneumonia)
Getting Rid of Hiccups
Some of the more popular hiccup cures work by stimulating your nasopharynx, this is the part of your pharynx behind the tonsils that is continuous with the nasal passage. These remedies include biting into a lemon, drinking from the far side of a glass, or pulling on your tongue.
- Gargle with iced water.
- Place a couple of drops of vinegar in your mouth.
- Stick your fingers in your ears for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Place gentle pressure on your nose while you swallow.
- Take nine or ten quick sips in a row from a glass of water.
- A teaspoon of peanut butter is said to get rid of hiccups every time.
- Bring your knees to your chest and hug them for a couple of minutes.
- Take a thin slice of lemon, place it on your tongue and suck it like a sweet.
- Press the soft areas behind your earlobes, just below the base of the skull.
- Some people find that if they consume pop and burp their hiccups go away.
- Place a teaspoon of sugar or honey in your mouth. When it melts, swallow it.
- Squeeze the ball of your left thumb between the thumb and forefinger of the right.
- Press the palm of your hand with the thumb of your other hand - the harder, the better.
- Breath in and hold your breath for about 10 seconds, then breathe out slowly. Repeat 3 or 4 times.
- Take a deep breath and hold it. When there's a build-up of carbon dioxide in your lungs, your diaphragm relaxes.
- Hold your breath for 30 seconds - Exhale slowly until your lungs are empty. Repeat 4 to 5 times or until you feel better.
- Cup your hands over your nose and mouth, but continue breathing normally - Hiccup relief from the extra dose of carbon dioxide.
- Breathe into a paper bag. breathing into a paper bag increases the amount of carbon dioxide you're taking in, forcing your body to get rid of it.
- Place 4 or 5 drops of Angostora Bitters on a lemon wedge and bite into the wedge sucking in the juice. Sugar may be added to the lemon to ease the taste.
- When you are standing you put your head down by your knees (like you're going to try to touch your toes) and drink a few gulps of water from a water bottle.
If you want to try even more methods, here is a list of 250 ways said to to help eliminate hiccups - www.musanim.com/mam/hiccup.htm
Hiccups that last more than 48 hours can be categorized into:
- Persistent or protracted hiccups - An episode of hiccups that lasts for over 48 hours.
- Intractable hiccups - An attack of hiccups that lasts longer than a month.
Prescription Medication for Hiccups
A doctor should be consulted if you have the hiccups for 48 hours or more, as a number of prescription medications are available for persistent hiccups, including:
- Nifedipine - A blood pressure medication.
- Gabapentin - Prescribed for neuropathic pain and hiccups.
- Haloperidol - Antipsychotic medication that can help prevent hiccups.
- Baclofen (Lioresal) - a muscle relaxant sometimes prescribed for hiccup treatment.
- Chlorpromazine (Thorazine)- an antipsychotic medication commonly used for hiccups.
- Metoclopramide (Reglan) - a medication used for the treatment of nausea by helping your stomach empty that also works for hiccups.
- Other drugs include anti-arrythmic drugs, anti-seizure medications, stimulants, and amitriptyline - but these are less commonly used.