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Understanding Hiccups - Health Tips - What Will Control Hiccups

Updated on January 3, 2014
Human Digestive Tract
Human Digestive Tract | Source

Hiccups - the Education and Knowledge

The word hiccup is an onomatopoeia. It  describes the sound we hear.  Hiccups are a result of the diaphragm moving involuntarily, and the larynx contracting causing air to get trapped.  Very often minor stomach disturbances are the cause of hiccups. Sometimes they are caused by mental or emotional reasons. Usually mild hiccups disappear without medical intervention. Most often they go away by themselves.

Hiccups are a protective action on the part of the body to try to get food and gas to exit the stomach. If gas in the stomach leans on the diaphragm or food that is too hot has irritated the prhenic nerve by the esophagus, the diaphragm get irritated and hiccups can result.  Usually hiccups only last a couple of minutes.  If you breathe in too much air at once, or swallow too quickly, or from alcohol or stress, hiccups can happen. All hiccups start in the diaphragm.  Inhaling pulls the air into the lungs. Exhaling pushes air out of the lungs. If the diaphragm becomes irritated, you get hiccups. Fatty and spicy foods, alcohol and carbonated beverages can cause hiccups.

Hiccups Can Be a Sign of Some Things

There is really no way to prevent hiccups. Try to avoid eating or drinking too much or too quickly. Men tend to get hiccups more than women. People of all ages are afflicted with hiccups from babies to senior citizens. Everyone at some point has had hiccups.Liver disease, pneumonia and some lung disorders also can irritate the diaphragm. Abdominal surgery can irritate those nerves and also cause hiccups. Noxious fumes can trigger hiccups too.

Hiccups only have one symptom which is the sound we hear from the uncontrolled movement of the diaphragm.

When a spasm occurs it contracts the diaphragm which causes an intake of air to suddenly stop by the glottis - the vocal chords. When the vocal chords close, we get the hiccup sound. Hiccups can be caused when our stomach is full, drinking too much liquor, smoking, swallowing air, drinking a hot drink and then having something cold. Stress and excitement can also cause hiccups.

Hiccups can’t tell time. They can last a few minutes, or a few hours. If they last longer than 2 days, they are called persistent hiccups. Intractable hiccups last longer than 30 days. Intractable hiccups are a rare occurrence, but those who have suffered complain also of exhaustion, weight loss, and trouble sleeping. Sometimes hiccups can be a symptom of something more serious.

Long term hiccups can be caused by damage to the phrenic or vagus nerves. Both these nerves are related to the diaphragm muscle.
Sometimes this irritation can be caused by a sore throat, a hair touching your eardrum, a cyst, goiter, or tumor in your neck, gastro reflux.


Another cause of long term hiccups could be a central nervous system (CNS) disorder. Should you have an infection, a tumor or some trauma or damage to the CNS, it can interfere with the body’s normal ability to control the hiccup reflex. CNS disorder can be caused by a stroke, tumors, multiple sclerosis, encephalitis, meningitis, or brain injury.

See a Doctor if Hiccups Persist

If hiccups persist, it is a good idea to see your doctor for a physical checkup.
If hiccups persist, it is a good idea to see your doctor for a physical checkup. | Source

When to See a Doctor

Sometimes drugs or metabolic disorders can disrupt the central nervous system.  Even drugs like tranquilizers, barbiturates, and steroids, anesthesia, and alcohol can cause this. Some diseases like diabetes, an electrolyte imbalance, and kidney failure can alter the CNS.

Long term hiccups are more commonly seen in men than women.
People who get intubated (placing a tube down the throat to help the person breathe), or having an endoscopy can result in long term hiccups.

Hiccups, both long and short term can also be caused by stress and anxiety. The emotional component needs to be addressed too.

.
To rule out any underlying medical conditions as a cause of the hiccups, a doctor will take blood and check for any infection, signs of kidney disease or diabetes. They may order a CT scan, MRI or a chest x-ray. Very often hiccups go away by themselves. Should they find that it is caused by another condition, treating the condition will probably get rid of the hiccups.  

If drugs are needed to treat the long term hiccups often an antipsychotic or anti nausea, or a muscle relaxant medication will be used. In some instances a person’s abdomen becomes extended.  A doctor can insert a nasogastric tube through your nose and into the stomacah to stop the hiccups. Should the doctor need to be more aggressive, they will inject the person with anesthesia to numb the phrenic nerve.

Before You Go To the Doctor

Doctors can surgically implant a battery operated device to stimulate the vagus nerve to help control hiccups that won’t stop.

An endoscopy uses a small camera on a flexible tube that goes from the throat to the stomach to check for any abnormalities. Doctors who specialize in neurological and gastrointestinal disorders may have other suggestions.

People have seen some success from acupuncture and hypnosis.

Short term triggers can sometimes be caused by eating a big meal, sudden changes in temperature, or from drinking alcoholic or carbonated beverages.

Before you go to the doctor:

  • Keep a specific and detailed description of your symptoms.
  • Write down your medical history, and the history of your parents and siblings.
  • Keep track of all the medications, vitamins and supplements you take.
  • Note when the hiccups started, and how often they occur
  • Try to notice when they are worse or better and associate that with what you may have just consumed, your environment, and emotional state
  • Did you recently have an earache or sore throat?


Doctors will want this information and may perform a neurological examination. They will check your reflexes, muscle tone and muscle strength, coordination, sense of touch and sight, and your balance.

Hiccups and Evolution

If hiccups continue to go on for an extended period of time, it can interfere with sleeping, eating, speaking and healing.


If you have the hiccups and stomach pain, shortness of breath, fever, vomiting, coughing up blood, or the feeling that your throat is closing, call your doctor immediately.
There are many home remedies and anecdotal treatments for hiccups:

  • drink a glass of water quickly - helps stimulate the vagus nerve and nasopharynx

  • pull hard on your tonge
  • let someone scare you
  • hold your breath - it is thought if you retain carbon dioxide the diaphragm will relax and stop the spasms.
  • bite on a lemon
  • drink from the far side of the glass
  • gargle with water
  • ½ tsp of sugar on the back of your tongue or under your tongue, 3x within 2 minutes (don’t use this for young children)
  • use smelling salts




What Does the Brain Have to do With Hiccups

The hiccups and the brain.
The hiccups and the brain. | Source

Hiccups Are Not Controlled by the Brain

Hiccups are not controlled by the brain, so it is not possible to think hiccups away. Hiccups are actually a vestige (leftover) from the evolutionary trail of amphibians. When fish and amphibians used their gills in water and primitive type of lungs to breathe on land, the glottis would close the path to the lungs in water and open it on land. When we hiccup we use these same muscles that close our glottis. Hiccups are hard to get rid of because it is controlled in the part of our brain that reacts unconciously. The best advice the next time you get the hiccups, might just be to accept them and trust they will most likely go away soon.
There are many home remedies and anecdotal treatments for hiccups:

Hiccups are not controlled by the brain, so it is not possible to think hiccups away. Hiccups are actually a vestige (leftover) from the evolutionary trail of amphibians. When fish and amphibians used their gills in water and primitive type of lungs to breathe on land, the glottis would close the path to the lungs in water and open it on land. When we hiccup we use these same muscles that close our glottis.

Hiccups are hard to get rid of because it is controlled in the part of our brain that reacts unconciously. The best advice the next time you get the hiccups, might just be to accept them and trust they will most likely go away soon.

Other Things About Being Human

There are many quirks and fascinating facts about the human body. From yawning to swinging our arms while we walk, science continues to learn more about what it takes to be human.

Comments

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    • profile image

      Selma 

      6 years ago

      They are a massive pain. The best cure I found so far I found at http://www.get-rid-of-hiccups.com - have someone plug your ears and drink a glass of water while they do!

    • profile image

      bigtim 

      6 years ago

      actually, it is possible to make hiccups go away through sheer will alone

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR

      toknowinfo 

      7 years ago

      Hi Stars, Thanks for stopping by and for your kind comments. It is always nice to see you.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR

      toknowinfo 

      7 years ago

      Hi CHS, Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Everything about hiccups is uncoordinated.

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 

      7 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      nice hub, and educational. GBY

    • chspublish profile image

      chspublish 

      7 years ago from Ireland

      A very irritating action when it occurs. I agree with the glass of water being drunk, while putting fingers in ears and someone holds the glass. Seems to work, most of the time, though a bit messy with the coordination.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR

      toknowinfo 

      7 years ago

      Hi Pam, hiccups are certainly annoying. I think it is one of those things we can all relate to, kind of like a bonding human experience. (lol)

    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 

      7 years ago from Utah

      My Lord I hate the hiccups the most annoying of body functions. Love your hub

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR

      toknowinfo 

      7 years ago

      Hi Jamie, I think having hiccups without stopping would make life even more difficult than it already is. Sometimes it seems like it is easier to get the hiccups than it is to get rid of them. Glad you stopping by and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • Jamie Brock profile image

      Jamie Brock 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Great hub with lots of useful info about hiccups! I never really think of them much until I get them and can't get rid of them which is really annoying. I notice that every time I try to eat too fast especially french fries I end up with hiccups. I couldn't imagine having them for hours on end.. that would be horrible! Thanks for sharing!

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR

      toknowinfo 

      7 years ago

      Hi Pdog, I am laughing so much! I never thought of hiccups causing suspense and excitement. Thanks for sharing and I am still laughing.

    • psychicdog.net profile image

      psychicdog.net 

      7 years ago

      TKI what I also find great about hiccups is the way it's a really suspenseful and exciting time after trying a remedy - everyone's ears are pricked waiting for the outcome -did it or didn't work!

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR

      toknowinfo 

      7 years ago

      Hi Cog, I don't mind if you have onomatopoeia. Hopefully you won't get hiccups for a long long time.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR

      toknowinfo 

      7 years ago

      Hi Pdog, I think my hiccups would be scared away just by that thought. But actually my kids did that to each other and their hiccups did go away.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR

      toknowinfo 

      7 years ago

      Hi Susan, Interesting that celery would give you the hiccups. I am glad you are not bothered by them anymore, that way you can keep writing the wonderful things you do on HubPages.

    • Cogerson profile image

      UltimateMovieRankings 

      7 years ago from Virginia

      I really dislike when I have onomatopoeia ....great advice and some I will follow the next time I get those dreaded hiccups...thanks for sharing

    • psychicdog.net profile image

      psychicdog.net 

      7 years ago

      Block your ears and let someone else pour a glass of water down your throat - works every time!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I used to get hiccups that would last for hours. I would drink from the opposite side of the glass while leaning over and try to hold my breath if you can picture all of that :) Have not had hiccups in awhile now (Knock on Wood) but many times if I eat celery while preparing dinner I end up with them. Interesting hub.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR

      toknowinfo 

      7 years ago

      Hi L.L., Nothing about getting hiccups is easy.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Drinking from the far side of the glass...that's pretty tricky.

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