All About Hiccups

Hiccups, the annoying little sound that escapes sometimes at the worst possible moments.  Most people get hiccups at some point in their lives. Hiccups are also called diaphragmatic spasms or singultus.  Singultus is a latin name derived from the word singult.  Singult literally means trying to breathe while sobbing.  

What really is causing you to make that noise uncontrollably?  A hiccup is an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm. The diaphragm can become irritated by many different things.  This is because when you hiccup it is really a nerve that connects the diaphragm to the brain that becomes irritated.

Some things that can cause you to get the hiccups are:

  • Eating too much too quickly
  • Drinking carbonated beverages
  • Swallowing air when chewing gum  
  • Feeling nervous
  • Stress
  • A sudden change of temperature  

Hiccups can become very annoying but they don’t usually last too long. If your hiccups last to where they are making it hard for you to eat, drink or sleep you will want to consult with your doctor on what to do.

There is no medical remedy for hiccups.  People always hear about scaring someone with the hiccups which can get rid of them or drinking a bunch of water or hanging upside down.  None of these have been scientifically proven. Something that has been noted as helpful is breathing into a paper bag. This will flood your lungs with carbon dioxide causing your diaphragm to relax.

If you persistently keep getting the hiccups you  may have some underlying problem. A tumor or a hair touching your ear drum or a cyst in your neck.  You can have an endoscopic swallow test where you swallow a tiny camera that will let you see if there is anything else going on.

Hiccups can turn into long term hiccups. The longest case of hiccups was 68 years. These are hiccups that you get for an extended amount of time. Long term hiccups are usually caused by damage or constant irritation to the nerves connecting to the diaphragm.  

Hiccups can be indicators of other more serious diseases. Such as encephalitis, meningitis, or kidney failure. If your hiccups last longer than two days you may want to consult a doctor. Other things that can be indicated by long term hiccups are gastrointestinal or respiratory distress or even diabetes.

In some families you can see the trend of hiccups.  Where some people get them but no one else does.  You cannot be immune to hiccups. Hiccups affect everyone, every gender, race, and age. There are just some people who are more prone to getting them than others.  Hiccups can happen in all mammals, meaning even your pets can get the hiccups. Infants usually hiccup more than other age groups, even babies in utero can have hiccups. There are some people who will experience hiccups throughout the day where they go away for moments but then continue to come back which can be extremely irritating.  

Mostly hiccups are not dangerous.  If they do last longer than two days you will need to see a doctor to make sure there is no underlying issue.  Most hiccups can be self treated at home. Make sure that you eat slowly to try and eliminate excess air being swallowed. Hiccups can be very annoying but are typically nothing to worry about.  If you do have questions about what is causing your hiccups make sure you speak with your physician.

Key Points

  • 1Hiccups are irritating but not dangerous.
  • 2Breathing into a paper bag is the best method for getting rid of hiccups.
  • 3Hiccups can be an indicator of a more serious disease.


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