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HiccupsHic...Hic...Hic growing up, I remember a story about hiccups that when someone hiccups, it means that he/she will still grow taller, or when you experience having hiccups you need to sip water seven times for it to be gone. A funny story that we sometimes believe. But it's just a story or a myth. According to Mayo Clinic, Hiccups are involuntary contractions of the diaphragm — the muscle that separates your chest from your abdomen and plays an important role in breathing. Each contraction is followed by a sudden closure of your vocal cords, which produces the characteristic "hic" sound.

Hiccups may result from a large meal, alcoholic or carbonated beverages, or sudden excitement. In some cases, hiccups may be a sign of an underlying medical condition. For most people, a bout of hiccups usually lasts only a few minutes. Rarely, hiccups may persist for months. This can result in weight loss and exhaustion. It may sometimes be accompanied by a slight tightening sensation in your chest, abdomen, or throat. The most common triggers for hiccups that last less than 48 hours include:

  • Drinking carbonated beverages
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Eating too much
  • Excitement or emotional stress
  • Sudden temperature changes
  • Swallowing air with chewing gum or sucking on candy

Hiccups that last more than 48 hours may be caused by a variety of factors, which can be grouped into the following categories:

  • Hiccups are usually temporary, but in rare cases, they can stick around -- for a while. It’s usually because of damage or aggravation to the nerves connected to the diaphragm. Everything from a hair touching your eardrum to a sore throat can affect these nerves, and in more serious cases, a tumor, goiter, or cyst in the neck can damage them. Hiccups that last a while can also be because of central nervous system disorders like encephalitis or meningitis, or metabolic disorders like diabetes or kidney failure. Drugs like steroids or some tranquilizers can trigger long-term hiccups, too.
  • Hiccups that last for days, weeks, or even years may be symptomatic of underlying disease. Certain lung or brain disorders can sometimes interfere with the functioning of the diaphragm and make the person prone to hiccups. Hiccups may also be a side effect of surgery or particular medications. Some of the diseases, conditions, and drugs that may prompt frequent or prolonged attacks of hiccups include:
  • Esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus)
  • An overactive thyroid gland
  • Pleurisy (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the lungs)
  • Pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs)
  • Kidney disease
  • Brain damage, such as stroke or tumor, affects the area of the brain which controls the diaphragm
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Chest surgery
  • Certain epilepsy medications
  • Nicotine gum

Prolonged hiccups should be medically investigated. Treatment options may include a.) treatment for the underlying disorder, b.) changes to current drug dosages, c.) switching to another form of nicotine therapy, d. anti-spasmodic drugs to calm the diaphragm, e.) a tube inserted into the nose (nasogastric intubation), f.) a nerve block, g.) surgery, to sever some of the nerves servicing the diaphragm. Most cases of hiccups go away on their own without restorative treatment. In the event that a basic medical condition is causing your hiccups, treatment of that sickness may eliminate the hiccups. There is no proven way to stop a hiccup, but one home remedy we can do is to sip cold water when it happens. Maybe, my sister is right about sipping water when having hiccups, but I’m not sure about sipping it seven times. Water will do and will always be a good remedy!

NOI Zamubec Alomar C. Adlawan

References:

Alli, R. (2020). Why Do I Hiccup? Retrieved from the WebMD website: https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/why-do-i-hiccup [Last updated: December 19, 2020]

Mayo Clinic. Hiccups. Retrieved from the Mayo Clinic website: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hiccups/symptoms-causes/syc-20352613 [Last updated: May 24, 2017]

Better Health Channel. Hiccups. Retrieved from the Better Health Channel website: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/hiccups#medical-treatment [Last updated: August 21, 2014]