What Causes Hiccups and How Long does it last?
Hiccups are very common to occur. Every person has experienced this at least once in a while. However, some find it to be a persistent problem and difficult to overcome. Yet, with simple home remedies, the hiccups can be avoided and overcome easily.
What are Hiccups?
Hiccups are involuntary and sudden contractions of the diaphragm.
When the diaphragm muscle repeatedly contracts, the opening or space in between the vocal cords voluntarily shuts in order to make sure that there is no inflow of air. Therefore, the sound of the hiccup is generated.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Hiccups?
Hiccup itself is a sign of the condition in which the diaphragm muscle contracts. There are usually no other symptoms that are associated with this condition. However, on careful examination, it can be found that some other signs too are being identified and they are:
- A brief and unexpected body, shoulder, throat and abdomen tremor
- A distracting pain may be associated with hiccups at times
- An inaudible sound can be heard
- A quick inhaling gasp occurs.
How Long Does Hiccups Last?
Hiccups usually last for about 48 hours on an average. If it lasts for more than this, it can lead to serious difficulties that can cause pain and even disrupt breathing, eating or sleeping.
What Causes Hiccups?
The causes of hiccups are –
- Food Habit as a Cause for Hiccups: If you consume too much of alcohol, carbonated drinks or if you eat too much at a time, it can cause hiccups. Sometimes, when you swallow too much of air while having a chewing gum or while sucking a candy, it can also lead to hiccups. Consuming hot and spicy food as well as inhaling harmful fumes can also cause this.
- Hiccups Caused Due To Nerve Irritation and Damage: The most common cause of long term hiccups is this. When the vagus nerves or phrenic nerves experience irritation or damage, it can cause hiccups. These irritations can be something as simple as hair touching eardrums, gastroesophageal reflux, a cyst or tumour in the throat or laryngitis.
- Hiccups Caused Due To Disorders of the Central Nervous System: Infections like meningitis, encephalitis, multiple sclerosis and other medical conditions such as stroke, tumours or traumatic brain injuries can disrupt the central nervous system that controls the normal hiccup reflex of the body.
- Hiccups Caused By Drugs and Medicines: There are some drugs that are given for different diseases and disorders such as anaesthesia drugs, electrolyte imbalance drugs, steroids, diabetes drugs and tranquilizers as well as medicines for kidney failures are all responsible for long term hiccups.
- Other Causes of Hiccups: Sometimes eating too fast or rapid eating can also lead to having hiccups.
Anxiety, fear and stress are also common causes of hiccups.
Uncontrolled laughs often lead to hiccups since air gets into the space in between the vocal cords.
Diagnosing the Cause of Hiccups:
When hiccups occur, it is easily understood by the external symptom. In most cases, hiccups stop by itself after a while but in case if a person suffers from hiccups too frequently or for extended period of time then it is important to diagnose the cause of hiccups. Tests that help in doing so include neurological tests and lab tests of some of the common medical conditions that can cause hiccups. Chest X-ray, CT scan and MRI scan are also done to detect anatomical abnormalities in the vagus nerve, phrenic nerve or diaphragm.
How to Cure Hiccups?
Hiccups are not a persistent problem; rather it goes away after a few minutes. In most severe cases, it can last more than 48 hours and if it does, the only way to get rid of hiccups is to see a doctor. The doctor will prescribe a few medicines such as Chlorpromazine, Metoclopramide and Baclofen, which are the most widely-used medications for hiccups. Sometimes the doctors also prescribe amitriptyline and other anti-seizure medications, as well as anti-arrythmic drugs and stimulants. Yet, what works best to get rid of hiccups are the simple and easy home remedies.
Home Remedies and Natural Ways to Get Rid of Hiccups:
If the hiccups occur, you can use simple home remedies to get rid of them. If these home remedies do not work well to cure the hiccups, you can choose the medicines to stop them.
- Drinking a glass of water using a straw is very useful home remedy for stopping hiccups. When gulping down the water, it is important that you plug your ears with fingers.
- It is very useful if you drink a glass of water without using your hands. You need to put the glass of water on a table or similar platform and bend down to tilt the glass and drink the water.
- Biting into a lemon wedge or eating something sweet can be quite useful in stopping the hiccups naturally.
- Swallowing as much air as you can, will help you in stopping the hiccups naturally. It is important that you release or exhale the air only when you cannot inhale anymore air.
- Using smelling salts is a good home remedy and can help in stopping the hiccups.
- To reset your vagus nerve and to end your hiccup naturally, you need to swallow up air and try to form burps.
- You can ask your friends to tickle you. Tickling for about 30 seconds will distract your mind and the hiccups will stop. This is not a remedy, but a useful way of stopping hiccups.
- You can choose other methods of distraction like being scared or something similar. But, asking someone to scare you might not work as you will be prepared for it.
- Gargling with cold water is very useful home remedy in most cases of hiccups.
- Breathing into a paper bag to completely exhale the air inside your lungs is a method that works well in stopping hiccups. Make sure that you do not cover your entire face, mouth and head into the paper bag.
- A useful exercise to stop hiccups is to bring your knees close to your chest and hold or hug them and then release the knees to repeat the process.
- Another useful home remedy is putting a spoon full of sugar on the tongue to let it melt will make sure that the hiccups are stopped soon.
- Sometimes pulling the earlobes while having a mouth full of water and then trying to swallow it helps in abandoning hiccups.
- You can also choose simple stretching out and other exercise methods to abandon hiccups naturally.
- Any event and incident that can distract you or force you to concentrate into one position are useful. You only need to understand what can actually distract you from thinking about hiccups.
Hiccups can occur at different times. If it does, there is nothing to really worry about as they will gradually disappear. Following these home and natural remedies is always useful for you to get rid of hiccups. However, if the problem is persistent, consult a doctor to know the cause of this condition and have it treated well.