Though we usually associate hiccups with a superstition that ‘someone is remembering us’, hiccups are ipso facto annoying. Well, you might be happy for a few seconds that someone thinks about you, after a few seconds it becomes nuisance and you just want to get rid of them. These annoying little sounds escaping your mouth without warning, have you ever wondered why and how they really occur?
What is the hiccups cause?
Hiccups begin from diaphragm, a muscle sandwiched between lungs and stomach. Same diaphragm is responsible for respiration. It contracts and moves down during inhalation to pull air into the lungs. During exhalation it relaxes and moves up so that air leaves your lungs.
Sometimes when diaphragm is irritated, it spams making air to be forcibly sucked into the throat. In this process the air hits the larynx (voice box) forcing the vocal cords to close out suddenly and make that hic sound.
Hiccups may occur due to several reasons which may be emotional or physical. The basis remains same, irritation of the nerve connecting diaphragm and brain. Some of the causes include:
- Anxiety, nervousness or excitement
- Eating too fast or too much
- Too much alcohol
- Carbonated beverages
- Abrupt changes in temperature
- Air swallowing which sucking chewing gum or candy
Although hiccups goes away in a while, but in unusual cases they may stay longer. This happens due to aggravation or damage of the nerve which connects to diaphragm. Anything ranging from sore throat to an irritated eardrum can aggravate these nerves. Rarely, these nerves get damaged from pre-existing conditions like goiter, tumor, or neck cyst.
Other causes of chronic hiccups include disorders of central nervous system like meningitis or encephalitis, or systemic disorders causing neuropathy like diabetes or renal failure. Certain drugs like tranquilizers or steroids may also cause chronic hiccups.
Sometimes procedures particularly those involving anesthesia may cause hiccups.
When to see a doctor for hiccups?
Make your appointment with the doctor when the hiccups have lasted for more than two days, causing stress or interference with routine activities like breathing, eating or sleeping.
If hiccups is accompanied by stomach pain, shortness of breath, fever, vomiting or hematemesis (coughing out blood), immediately see a doctor.
Treating hiccups at home
Although people will tell you all sort of home remedies for hiccups but there is not much scientific evidence to any of them. Doing things like hanging upside down or making someone scare you, such tricks not only sound ridiculous but also not more effective than a placebo.
Drinking water may be helpful when hiccup is caused by eating too much or too fast, as the water clears up the food pipe.
Again, there is no clinical evidence but some experts believe that breathing into paper bag or holding breath may be useful as they increase CO2 levels in the lungs, thus depressing respiration and relaxing the diaphragm.
Hiccups are irritating involuntary sounds escaping your mouth caused by the irritation of nerve connecting diaphragm and brain. Although, most often they will be relieved by themselves within a few seconds to minutes, you must see a doctor if they continue for too long, or causing your problem with your routine or accompanied with other alarming symptoms.