Hiccups are involuntary expulsions of air that repeat a number of times per minute. They are also commonly referred to as hiccoughs and are accompanied by a “hic” sound that is caused by the abrupt closure of the vocal cords. Hiccups usually resolve themselves, but many people choose to try and shorten the duration of hiccups due to the discomfort and embarrassing nature of the sound. Prolonged hiccups that last a number of hours or days may require medical intervention.
What is the cause of hiccups?
Hiccups are caused by involuntary spasms of the diaphragm. The phrenic nerve becomes stimulated and causes the diaphragm to spasm. This induces a quick intake of air. The air rushing into the lungs causes the vocal cords to close and a hiccup is produced. Medical scientists are still unable to determine exactly why the phrenic nerve causes the diaphragm to spasm, but they agree that hiccups seem to serve no specific purpose.
Some things that are thought to cause hiccups include; eating or drinking too quickly, hot or spicy foods, very cold foods, indigestion, soft drink, pregnancy, and sudden temperature changes. Some people consider hiccups to be a sign of poor digestion. Hiccups can also be caused by laughing, as a stress indicator and by over consumption of alcohol.
Hiccups that last for days or weeks may be a sign of a more serious underlying problem. Some lung and brain disorders can interfere with the function of the diaphragm causing prolonged bouts of hiccups. Some diseases that can cause hiccups include esophagus (inflammation of the esophagus), an overactive thyroid gland, pleurisy (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the lungs), pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs). Hiccups are also known occur after certain types of brain damage, such as stroke or tumor, which affects the area of the brain which controls the diaphragm. Some surgeries and medication can also be a cause of prolonged hiccups such as stomach, abdominal or chest surgery, epilepsy medication, and nicotine gum.
Home Remedies for Hiccups
- Hold your breath
- Have someone frighten you
- Take slow deep breaths
- Drink some water
- Try distraction and concentrate on something complicated or difficult to manage.
- Eat a small snack. Gingerbread is a popular remedy.
- Suck on a lemon
- Eat a spoon of honey or sugar
- Eat some ice cubes
- Sit down and lean forward over your knees
- Stand up and stretch your arms above your head to stretch the diaphragm