Hiccups also known as hiccoughs are a common problem. Most people suffer from the issue due to involuntary diaphragm spasms or contractions. The diaphragm is the muscle that separates the chest from the abdominal region. It is an important part that plays a significant role in your breathing. When you experience each spam, it closes your vocal cords. So, it produces a hic sound, which makes the spasm have a distinctive feature. So, when you experience the problem, everyone knows it due to the distinctive sound. The problem is medically termed as singultus or synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (SDF). Most people experience a problem when they consume excess alcohol or carbonated beverages. Sudden excitement can also trigger the spasms. In most cases, the condition lasts only for a few minutes. But, the bouts of long-term hiccoughs may indicate something serious.
Hiccups, also known as singultus is a short-term phenomenon. Singultus is the word derived from Latin, which means gasping or sobbing. It has the name due to the hic sound associated with the issue. You get hiccoughs due to the reflex inspiratory movement. This action or movement causes sudden closure of the vocal cords. Due to the sudden and involuntary diaphragm contraction, you can develop hiccoughs. While the diaphragm contracts, the contraction of the larynx (voice box) and total closure of the glottis occur. This can lead to a sudden rush of air into your lungs. So, it produces the hic sound. Wondering how you produce the sound? It is because the glottis is the idle part of your larynx. It is the region where you have vocal cords.
The condition is medically known as SDF or synchronous diaphragmatic flutter. In the majority of cases, the hiccups occur individually. Some people suffer it in bouts. Hiccoughs are often rhythmic, which means the interval between each hiccup. The interval is constant. The condition can appear from time to time. It usually resolves without any treatment. You just have to wait for a few minutes for the problem to ease. But, in rare cases, people suffer from chronic or prolonged hiccoughs. The persistent condition can disrupt your life. The hiccoughs lasting for over two months are known as intractable hiccoughs. Hiccoughs lasting for more than 48 hours is known as persistent, which requires medical intervention. It is an indicator of a serious health problem. The problem is common in men compared to women.
Hiccups In Babies
In adults, the hiccoughs occurs due to various reasons. But, small children suffer from it when they swallow air while feeding. So, infants can experience the problem. In most cases, babies let out the hic sound during feeding. Parents need to stop feeding and allow the hiccoughs to go away. It usually goes away after some time. If the baby hiccups do not ease, then you need to change the position of the baby or infant. Usually, burping helps to ease hiccoughs. Calming the child also works in easing the hic sounds. If the problem occurs during a feeding, then you need to feed the baby after he/she calms down or relaxes. If the hiccoughs worsen or make the child uncomfortable/upset, then it is better to see the pediatrician for better advice.
Symptoms Of Hiccups
Do you know an interesting fact? The longest recorded case of hiccough lasted in a person for more than sixty years. In most cases, hiccups are not a problem, but an indicator of some underlying health issues. The majority of the people experience hiccoughs that is accompanied by a tight sensation in the chest or abdomen region. Some people also find the tightness in their throat.
When To See A Doctor
While hiccups are a simple problem that lasts only for a short time, you need to make an appointment with the doctor when the problem lasts for more than 48 hours. Hiccoughs lasting for more than two days indicates some serious underlying issue. Severe hiccoughs can disrupt your sleeping, eating, and breathing. So, see a doctor immediately when the problem persists.
Causes Of Hiccups
Hiccups are a common phenomenon that everyone experiences at least one day a week. But, some people can get hiccoughs due to other underlying medical conditions. Based on the severity, the causes of the problem include:
Simple Issues Triggering Hiccups
The common triggers causing hiccoughs that lasts for a small period (less than 48 hours) include the following:
- Consuming carbonated drinks
- Eating too much
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Getting excited
- Emotional stress
- Eating spicy foods
- Sudden change in temperature
- Swallowing air while eating (for example while sucking on a candy or chewing gum)
Severe Issues Triggering Hiccups
When hiccoughs lasts for more than 48 hours, it means some severe issue is bothering you. The variety of factors triggering the long-term hiccoughs is grouped into several categories that include:
Nerve Irritation/Damage Causing Hiccups
People who suffer from long-term hiccups may develop it due to the irritation or damage to the phrenic nerves or vagus nerves. It serves as the diaphragm muscle. The various factor causing the irritation or damage to the nerves are:
- The hair growth or some other external agents touching the eardrum
- Developing a goiter, cyst or tumor in your neck
- Suffer from sore throat or laryngitis
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Sore throat or laryngitis
Central Nervous System Disorders
When you suffer an infection or develop a tumor in the central nervous system (CNS), it can cause hiccoughs. Even damage to the CNS as a result of trauma can lead to the disruption of your hiccup reflex control. Since you lose the normal control of the reflex, it can cause hiccoughs. The example causing the problem includes:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Traumatic brain injury
- Use of drugs
- Metabolic disorders
Other Causes Of Long-term Hiccups
Other than the above-mentioned problems, some other factors can also cause hiccoughs that lasts for a long time. The other causes include:
- Effects of anesthesia
- Suffer from alcoholism
- Use of barbiturates
- Patients with diabetes
- Suffer from kidney disease
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Use of steroids
- Use tranquilizers
Risk Factors Associated With Hiccups
In most cases, men are more likely to develop hiccoughs that last for a long time compared to women. But, some factors make people more susceptible to developing hiccoughs. It includes:
Emotional issues can occur due to anxiety. It is prominent among people who experience immense stress in their daily life. Such pressures can put your mental and physical health at risk. So, you can experience hiccoughs unexpectedly that lasts longer due to stress.
Undergo Invasive Surgery
Some people develop lasting hiccoughs after getting general anesthesia for any surgery. It is also noted the problem occurs when some patients undergo surgery or procedure involving their abdominal organs.
Complications Due To Hiccups
If you suffer from hiccups for a long time, then you need to see a doctor. As mentioned, severe medical conditions can trigger prolonged hiccoughs. Without proper managing, the condition can interfere with your following function:
- Wound healing after surgery
As it affects the above-mentioned function, you can feel uncomfortable. It is harmful to your health as leaving it without any attention can cause issues with your eating and sleep patterns. So, you can suffer from the following complications:
Lack of sleep can make you exhausted. It can increase fatigue and you will lose concentration as well as focus.
Since the hiccups disrupt the eating pattern, you cannot take your food properly. So, the condition can result in malnutrition. Lack of proper nutrition can lead to severe weight loss.
Long-term hiccoughs can pose a problem when you try to drink water. So, you face the risk of dehydration. The lack of enough fluids in your body can trigger several issues.
Diagnosing The Reasons For Hiccups
Hiccoughs lasting for a short time (less than 48 hours) require no treatment. It goes away without causing any issue. But, when hiccoughs lasts for a long time (more than 48 hours), you need to see a doctor. The lasting hiccoughs occurs due to some underlying issue, which requires medical attention. So, consult a doctor to reveal the actual reason for hiccoughs and get treatment. During the doctor’s appointment, you need to undergo the following to uncover the actual issue:
During the appointment, your doctor asks you about when you started experiencing the problem, the frequency of the problem, and if it is disrupting your daily routine. You must also inform your doctor regarding your activity before the hiccoughs started.
After the physical assessment, your doctor performs a neurological exam to check the following to detect any neurological damage or other issues:
- Sense of touch
- Muscle tone
- Muscle strength
Based on the test, your doctor can identify any neurological disorder behind your hiccoughs.
The doctor orders blood tests to detect if the infection is the cause of hiccoughs. So you need to provide a sample of your blood. Lab tests check for other possible causes like diabetes or kidney disease.
These tests use sophisticated technology to assess any anatomical abnormalities. The abnormalities can affect vagus or phrenic nerves. Some abnormalities can affect diaphragm, resulting in hiccoughs. So, using the tests, doctors can detect the exact cause of the problem.
If a block or issue to your esophagus or windpipe causes hiccoughs, then checking the obstruction is essential. The doctor uses an endoscope to check the problems. It is a flexible device with a camera on one end. The doctor passes the thin tube into the mouth through the throat to check the windpipe as well as the esophagus
In some cases, hiccoughs indicate underlying heart damage or a heart attack. So, your doctor suggests taking ECG. The test measures the electrical activity in your heart to detect any issues.
Treatment For Hiccups
In most cases, hiccoughs go on their own without any specific treatment. But, when the hiccoughs last for more than three hours or it disrupts your food consumption or sleep, then see a doctor immediately. You need to see your doctor as early as possible to ensure the problem is not a sign of something serious. You can see a general physician for getting the right advice. For children visit a pediatrician. But, based on the underlying problem, you may need a specialist doctor’s attention. So, you need the assistance of the following doctors based on the type of issue you suffer:
- For neurological disorders like stroke, you need to a specialist doctor of the brain and nervous system like a neurologist.
- Digestive issues like acid reflux are handled by specialist doctors like gastroenterologist who has the experience in dealing with issues related to the digestive system.
- People can experience hiccups due to problems like pneumonia, which requires the attention of specialist doctors like pulmonologists who specialize in respiratory tract disorders.
Based on the problem, you need to see the specialist doctor get the following treatments to overcome the problems:
Your doctor can prescribe for drugs if the condition persists for more than two days. Your doctor offers the following medications:
In some cases, the non-invasive option may not offer you effective results. So, for easing hiccups, your doctor suggests invasive options. Here are the steps to ease the discomfort triggered due to hiccoughs:
Your doctor recommends injecting anesthetic to the phrenic nerve. With the injection, the doctor aims to block the nerve function and hiccoughs caused due to it.
To alleviate hiccoughs, your doctor implants a battery-operated device surgically. The main purpose of the device is to deliver electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve. It is a common procedure used to treat epilepsy. But, evidence indicates it is also helpful in controlling persistent hiccoughs.
When all other options prove fruitless, you need to undergo phrenic nerve surgery. This nerve is responsible for controlling the actions of the diaphragm. Invasive surgery is used as a last resort to manage the problem. So, it is used only in people who suffer from long-term hiccoughs that causes severe complications.
Home Remedies To Manage Hiccups
Singultus is a common problem. Unless the problem is triggered due to an underlying medical condition, you can deal with it by taking some effective steps at home. Most of the home remedies offer you relief from the uncomfortable problem (but may not have a scientific backing). Numerous home cures focus on the body to retain carbon dioxide. The presence of carbon dioxide can stop the diaphragm spasm that causes the problem. So, follow the tips suggested below:
Cover Your Nose And Mouth
When you experience hiccoughs, try to cover your mouth and nose by cupping it with your hands. But, try to breathe normally when you cover the nose and mouth. If it is not possible, then breathe into a paper bag that is handy. It is to provide your body with an extra dose of carbon dioxide. The extra dose can help you overcome the spasms.
Hold Your Breath
When you get hiccoughs the next time, you can try holding your breath. Take a deep breath and hold it. This action helps your body to the build-up carbon dioxide in your lungs. It results in relaxing your diaphragm. So, you can get rid of hiccoughs.
Sip Water Slowly
Take quick sips of water. When you take nine to ten sips of water quickly, then you can ease sudden hiccoughs. It is because the rhythmic gulping of water causes contractions that override diaphragm spasms.
While no evidence exists, you can try taking a spoon full of sugar to stop hiccoughs. It is one of the popular methods as the graininess of sugar can prevent spasms due to its irritating effects on the esophagus. The graininess causes the phrenic nerves to reset, resulting in ease of hiccoughs.
You can use your hands to get rid of hiccoughs. Use the thumb of your hand to press the palm of the other hand. Try to press harder to get better results. You can also try squeezing the left thumb’s ball between the right hand’s forefinger and thumb. It can cause distress, which will affect the nervous system. So, you can get rid of hiccoughs.
Take Some Peanut Butter
Children who suffer from hiccoughs may not like other home remedies. In such cases, give them a big spoon of peanut butter. It is the classic cure for the uncomfortable condition that shows results. It is because the process chewing peanut butter, getting peanut butter off the tongue as well as teeth, and finally swallowing interrupts the breathing patterns. So, it offers relief from sudden hiccoughs.
Massage Your Neck
While it is one of the strange techniques, you can try it when nothing works to get rid of hiccoughs. So, you can try rubbing or massaging your neck. Focus on the left and right side of the neck containing carotid arteries to overcome the uncomfortable hiccoughs.
Hug Your Knees
When hiccoughs are persistent, try to sit comfortably. Then, bring your knees to the chest and remain in the same pose for at least two minutes. Pulling or hugging your knees to the chest compresses the region. It stops diaphragm spasm.
Hiccups can cause discomfort as they come and go on their own will. Most of the time, hiccoughs occur unexpectedly and cause discomfort while it lasts. So, you can try the tips suggested above to ease the issue. Such tips are helpful when you suffer from hiccoughs only for a short period. If the issue persists, see a doctor immediately.
You can prevent the condition from affecting your life. You can follow the suggestion offered to overcome the uncomfortable condition:
Avoid Sudden Temperature Changes
The problem can occur due to the nerve pathway disturbance. Any issue to the pathway from your muscle can trigger a spasm of the diaphragm. So, try to avoid temperature changes suddenly as it can trigger the problem.
Chilled beer, carbonated soda or other fizzy drinks can worsen singultus. The low-temperature of the drinks along with the bubbles can trigger a combination of irritations. So, it can affect your diaphragm and result in persistent singultus.
You might have heard parents saying to eat slowly after chewing the food. It is to avoid diaphragm spasms. So, eat your food moderately at a slow pace. Quick eating means you tend to swallow more air. It can lead to burping or hiccups.
Check Medication You Take
Certain medications you take can trigger frequent hiccoughs. People taking medications like diazepam contributes to frequent hiccoughs. So, if you suspect the prescription drug you take triggers the problem, then talk to your doctor. Your doctor can suggest an alternative to avoid the discomfort.
Prevent Hiccups In Babies
While hiccoughs in adults or older children may not feel like a serious issue, when young children develop it, parents feel concerned. In most cases, the condition occurs due to swallowing too much air while feeding. So, as a parent, you can avoid the problem by taking some steps:
Ritual For Burping
When the child hiccoughs, you can practice the same technique followed to burp the child. So, hold the child against the shoulder and gently pat on their back. This action brings up the air they have swallowed to stop the hiccoughs.
Check Nipples Of Bottles
Your needle to check the nipple of the baby’s bottle. It must allow the right amount to fluid to come out. Too much or too little of the fluid can lead to the baby swallowing more air and suffer from hiccoughs. So, test the bottle by filling it with distilled water and turn it upside down. The nipple must allow regular dripping that slows and eventually stops. If the nipple of the bottle fails to work properly, it can lead to baby hiccoughs.
In most cases, hiccups go away after some time. It only affects you for a brief period. But, people who observe other signs along with Singultus, then see a doctor as soon as possible. It is important to get a proper diagnosis for your recurrent and persistent hiccoughs. With proper care, you can overcome the problem with ease.View Article Sources