Hiccups are a medical condition that occurs when a spasm contracts your diaphragm, which is a sheet of muscle separating your chest cavity from your abdominal cavity. The spasm causes a sudden intake of breath that is momentarily stopped by the vocal cords closing. The closure is what creates the hiccup sound. Hiccups can affect anyone, young or old, regardless of their gender though they tend to be more common in men than women.

Causes of Hiccups

The most common case of hiccups occurring is when you have a very full stomach. This can be from swallowing too much air while eating, eating a large amount of food very quickly, drinking too much alcohol, smoking cigarettes, emotional stress, excitement, or a sudden change in your stomach’s temperature, such as drinking something very hot, and then something very cold. Hiccups can last a few minutes or a few hours. If hiccups last longer than 48 hours, you should seek medical attention. When they last longer than a month, the hiccups are known as intractable hiccups which are very rare. These cause other side effects like lack of sleep, exhaustion, and weight loss. Persistent and intractable hiccups might be a sign of a more serious health condition. Causes of persistent or intractable hiccups include mental health problems, anesthesia or surgery, irritation of the head, neck or chest nerves, central nervous system problems like injury, stroke, cancer, or infections, or metabolic problems like hyperventilation and decreased kidney function.

Treating Hiccups

The majority of hiccup cases will go away on their own with nothing more that needs to be done. You should wait several hours before calling your doctor. If they aren’t gone in a few minutes, like most are, it may take a couple hours. There are a variety of home treatments people have used to help get rid of treatment, though you may find something on your own that works best. Most of the home treatments help increase the level of carbon dioxide in your blood, therefore stopping the hiccups. You can try holding your breath and counting to 10 or 15. Another thing that works is holding your breath while trying to suck in more air, which works better for some. Breathing into a paper bag for several seconds and drinking a glass of cold water very quickly have also been known to help. If those don’t work, try eating a teaspoon of honey or sugar. Acupuncture and hypnosis have been known to help treat persistent hiccups.

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