Hiccups can be described as involuntary contractions that happen in the diaphragm. These are the muscles that separate the abdomen and the chest. Each of the contractions is normally followed by a sudden closure of the vocal cords producing a characteristic “hic” sound.
Causes of Hiccups
There are a number of factors that cause hiccups such as laughing, carbonated drinks, drinking too many alcoholic beverages, smoking, dry breads, some types of spicy foods, intense emotions like anxiety, fear, joy, excitement or euphoria, rapid eating, coughing, swallowing too much air, sudden changes in stomach temperature (for instance, when a person takes very hot drinks followed by a cold beverage), emotional stress, and a very full stomach.
How Long do Hiccups Last?
Normal hiccups normally last for a few minutes to a couple of hours. There are however, persistent ones that last more than 48 hours. The ones that go on for a whole month are known as intractable hiccups. While these are quite rare, they can cause a lack of sleep, exhaustion and weight loss. The intractable and persistent types at times, are an indication of more serious health problems, thus it is important to consult a professional doctor for further diagnosis.
Symptoms of Hiccups
There is only one symptom of hiccups and this is the forceful sudden movement of the diaphragm that produces the “hic” sound.
Treatment of Hiccups
Most of the hiccups normally go away on themselves. There are, however, a variety of home remedies that can be used to get relief. Most involve increasing the level of CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the blood.
– Breathing into a paper bag repeatedly for a certain period of time
– Holding your breath and counting to ten slowly
– Drinking a glass of cold water almost immediately and quickly
– Eating a teaspoon of honey or sugar
– Have someone frighten you
– Pull your tongue very hard
– Gargle with water
– Bite on a lemon
– Use smelling salts
– Drink from the far side of the glass (bend over to make this happen)
A physician might prescribe some medication for chronic and severe hiccups. There are some sedatives, relaxants, stimulants and even analgesics that can help alleviate the symptom. Seek immediate medical attention if the hiccups are associated with fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, shortness of breathing especially if a feeling as though the throat is literally going to close up.