Hiccups: What you need to know

Hiccup is an onomatopoeic name given to the manifested response to the sudden contraction of the diaphragm and closure of the vocal cords. It is also called hiccough. The medical term for it is singultus.

Hiccups are reflexes produced by everyone, just like sneezing and coughing. However, they are considered embarrassing depending on the frequency and setting of their occurrence. More often than not, hiccups go unnoticed.

Hiccups are ubiquitous reflexes

What happens when you hiccup?

There are two events leading to a hiccup.

  • Firstly, there is an involuntary and forceful contraction of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the dome-shaped muscle that lies beneath the lungs. It is an important muscle for breathing.
  • Secondly, there is rapid closure of the vocal cords. This is what causes the “hic” sound produced.

Causes of hiccups

Common causes of hiccups include:

  • Eating too much or too quickly
  • Taking alcohol or carbonated drinks
  • Feeling nervous or excited
  • Certain medications such as steroids, benzodiazepines, antibiotics, etc.
  • Diseases that irritate the nerve supply to the diaphragm such as multiple sclerosis
  • Abdominal surgery

How to relieve hiccups

Usually, hiccups go away on their own. However, if they start to bother you too much, here are some things you can do to stop them.

  • Holding your breath
  • Gargling with ice water
  • Drinking or sipping a glass of cold water
  • Breathing into a paper bag

When to complain about hiccups

When hiccups persist for more than two days or begin to cause problems with sleeping, eating, or breathing, you should see your doctor.

A word from HealthFacts to you

It is absolutely normal to hiccup. If they seem to bother you, there are simple remedies to try out. However, if they persist for more than two days or disturb you while you sleep or eat, then you should see your doctor.

Till next time, stay healthy and stay informed!


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