Hiccups occur when your muscles contracts involuntarily and repeatedly. During this time, the opening of your vocal cords close the passage for air and thus the hiccup sound is heard.
These contractions are caused by irritation of the nerves and are linked to various ailments. Although hiccups are not life-threatening, it may negatively impact your body in certain ways like the interference in sleeping and eating.
What Causes Hiccups
Hiccups happen when the nerves from your neck to your chest are irritated. There are several causes, such as:
- Damage of the phrenic nerve or vagus
- Eating too fast
- Chewing gum
- Swallowing air
- Drinking too much
- Noxious fumes
- Brain tumor
- Gastroesophageal reflux
Hiccups can also come from other disorders such as kidney failure and pneumonia. There are also studies that said that if you are experiencing hiccups from some time now, it can come from nerve damage or central nervous system disorders. These disorders could be related to a sore throat, a hair in your eardrum, tumor, meningitis, multiple sclerosis, or even traumatic brain injury.
Some studies, on the other hand, show that hiccups can come from drugs or metabolic disorders such as diabetes, steroids, kidney disease, and tranquilizers. Any of these factors can be the cause of hiccups, although studies need to further research to find the main factor that can lead to these contractions.
Hiccups are spasms that can happen for a few seconds or minutes. If these last for a longer time or occur frequently, it can be considered as a persistent or chronic hiccup. This type of hiccup can last up to more than three hours.
Studies show that chronic hiccups are associated with medical issues. In fact, these can be the cause of a bigger disorder. When you have this, it can keep you awake at night or lose your appetite. Unfortunately, men tend to have hiccups than women. The following are also the different types of people who are most likely to have hiccups:
- Pregnant women
- Those with mental health issues
- Those who just underwent general anesthesia
- Cancer patients
- Those who like to drink alcohol
- Those who underwent surgery in the abdomen
- Those who have disorders in the diaphragm, stomach, or bowel
Hiccups and Babies
Babies are the most prone to hiccups. The contractions can occur during feeding. You can wait until the hiccups are over or you can change the position of your baby. You can even try to get your baby to burp or try to calm him down. Sometimes, it might work as well that you keep feeding him. If any of these did not work, you need to call your pediatrician.
Complications of Hiccups
Hiccups are not that dangerous. They can be a simple complication that may be gone after a few minutes. But when the hiccups are more frequent, it can affect your body as well as your daily routine. The following are some of the complications that you can have from hiccups:
- Abnormal sleeping patterns
- Severe abdominal pain
- Reflux in food
- Interfere with eating
- Spitting blood
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling like your throat is going to close
When these complications occur, you need to see a doctor. But then again, what type of doctor is best suited for this situation? There are different specialists that you can go to when your hiccups are already severe. Take note that for you to know the right specialist, you need to check the cause of these hiccups first.
If the hiccups are caused by pneumonia or any lung disease, you must visit a pulmonologist. This type of doctor specializes in your respiratory tract. Meanwhile, if you think that it is because of an acid reflux, then the best person to go to is a gastroenterologist, a person who is an expert in the digestive system. Lastly, you should go to a neurologist if the hiccup is caused by a neurological disorder or stroke.
How to Stop Hiccups
The good news is that there are ways to get rid of hiccups. You can do home remedies or seek medical treatment.
Once you start experiencing hiccups, you can wait for a few minutes for it to be gone. If you get irritated and it might seem that these hiccups are not going anywhere, you can try holding your breath. If this does not work, try drinking a glass of water. Often times, your friends might suggest that you smell salt or pull hard your tongue. There are some people who said that by having another person to surprise you can remove hiccups.
Other home remedies that you can do are biting lemon, gargling with water, and placing a half teaspoon of sugar on the back of your tongue. You can leave the sugar for about three minutes. Alternatives such as corn syrup can work as well.
But if any of these remedies did not work and the symptoms of hiccups appear more severe, you can go to your doctor. The doctor might recommend that you take medications such as chlorpromazine, haloperidol, and metoclopramide. You can also take muscle stimulants, sedatives, analgesics, and relaxants.
There might be an instance as well that you might undergo medical surgeries such as implantation of a stimulator in your vagus nerve or phrenic nerve surgery. The phrenic nerve controls your diaphragm. This is usually the last resort that doctors do if your hiccups do not respond to all the suggested treatments.
Anyone can experience hiccups. It is no longer a new word that you would come across online. In fact, hiccups mostly happen when you are eating too much, smoking, or drinking. It usually happens within a few seconds or minutes. But when the hiccups occur for hours or more, it is best that you do either a home remedy or contact your doctor.