A hiccup is a sudden, involuntary spasm (contraction) of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the main muscle during inspiration. It is a thin, dome-shaped muscle found at the base of the lung that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. The spasm causes an abrupt stop during inspiration by the closure of the glottis (vocal cords) lead to the hiccup sound. Interestingly, hiccups are frequently rhythmic.
Hiccups often appear without any seeming cause, but usually resolve on its own within a short period of time. However, there have been reported cases where hiccups lasted for days, weeks, and even months.Persistent hiccups are hiccups that last for longer than 48 hours. On the other hand, intractable hiccups may last beyond a month. Hiccups are highly common and can occur to anyone, even newborns and fetus inside the uterus.
What Causes Hiccups?
Hiccups do not always manifest right after its underlying cause has been completed. The following are the common causes of hiccups:
- Eating too much food and eating in a fast pace
- Change in stomach temperature, such as drinking a cold beverage then drinking a hot beverage
- Hot and spicy food or liquids
- Drinking carbonated beverages
- Too much alcohol intake
- Too much air swallowed
- Inhalation of harmful fumes
- Emotional stress or excitement
- Diseases that affect the diaphragm
- Abdominal surgery
When Should Medical Attention be sought in Cases of Hiccups?
As previously mentioned, hiccups usually disappear on their own and there is rarely a need for medical attention. In cases of hiccups, the only symptoms produced is the distinctive hiccup sound and there are usually no other accompanying symptoms. If the following symptoms show, it may be time to seek medical help and medications may be prescribed.
- Hiccups that last for more than three hours
- Disrupts sleeping, eating or breathing
- In severe cases where there may be weight loss, exhaustion and lack of sleep
What First Aid Treatment Can be applied for Managing Hiccups?
Although there is no guaranteed way that can completely prevent hiccups, the following are recommended that may help treat and manage hiccups. These first aid treatments usually involve increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood that generally puts a stop to spasm in the diaphragm.
- Hold breath and count to 10 slowly. Inhale.Do this for a few times.
- Breathe into a paper bag repeatedly for a short period of time.
- Drink a glass of cold water completely.
- Eat a teaspoon of honey or sugar. Do this three times at intervals of two minutes each. For young children, use corn syrup.
- Bite on a lemon.
- Gargle water.
Disclaimer: The information given should not be substituted for medical treatment. To learn more about hiccups and other respiratory problems and how to treat and manage them, enrol in workplace approved First Aid Training and CPR courses.