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Hiccups, medically known as synchronous diaphragmatic flutter or singultus (SDF) are involuntary contraction of the diaphragm- the muscle that separates your chest from your abdomen & plays an important role in breathing. Each contraction is followed by a sudden closure of your larynx/vocal cords, which produces the characteristics ‘hic’ sound.

What are the causes of hiccups?

  • The most common cause of hiccups that last less than 48 hours includes:
  • Eating hot & spicy food that irritates the phrenic nerve, which is near the esophagus
  • Excitement or emotional stress
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Drinking carbonated beverages
  • Eating too much
  • Sudden temperature changes
  • Swallowing air with chewing gum or sucking on candy

Source: medicinenet.com

When is hiccups serious?

Hiccups that last more than 48 hours may be caused by a variety of factors which include:

Nerve damage irritation

A major reason for the long-term hiccups is damage to or irritation of the vagus nerves or phrenic nerve, which supply the diaphragm muscle. Factors that may cause damage or irritation to these nerve include:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Sore throat or laryngitis
  • A tumor, cyst or goiter in your neck
  • A hair or something else in your ear touching your eardrum

Central nervous system (CNS) disorder

A tumor or infection in your CNS or damage to your CNS as a result of trauma can disrupt your body’s normal control of your hiccup reflex. Example includes encephalitis, meningitis, multiple sclerosis, stroke, traumatic brain injury & tumors.

Metabolic disorders or medicines

Long term hiccups can be triggered by:

  • Alcoholism
  • Anesthesia
  • Barbiturates
  • Diabetes
  • Steroids
  • Risks  

Men are more likely to develop long term hiccups than a women. Mental or emotion issue like anxiety, stress & excitement aggravate hiccups & sometime surgery may do.

Complication of long term hiccups

Hiccups which occur for long time may interfere with:

  • Eating
  • Sleeping
  • Speech
  • Wound healing after surgery

How to get relief from hiccups?

You might have thought some of the funny idea like hanging upside down or having a friend scare you will get your hiccups to stop. Sorry, there’s no scientific proof that these ideas work.

However, some expert forward the idea like:

  • Holding your breath
  • Breathing into a paper bag

It might help you. Both techniques make carbon dioxide build up in your lungs, which might relax the diaphragm.

  • Other tips for getting relief includes:
  • Take a tiny amount of vinegar, just enough to taste
  • Lean forward so that you gently compress your chest
  • Gently pull on the tongue
  • Rub the eyeballs
  • Put your finger in your tongue to trigger a gag reflex

When to visit doctor?

If all these don’t work for you, and your hiccups continue for several and more, your doctor may try different medication to make you relief from it.
 

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