Hiccups are an annoying occurrence when the diaphragm spasms. The diaphragm is a large muscle located in the chest and abdominal area. It is the muscle that actually separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. The hiccup sound is made by the intake of breath that the spasm causes. This closes the vocal chords and creates the familiar sound.
Who Can Get Hiccups?
Hiccups can happen to anyone, but generally hiccups will affect men more than women. Everyone from babies to older adults has experienced hiccups.
Causes of Hiccups
In most cases, hiccups will go away on their own, between a few minutes and about 48 hours. These are usually caused by eating too fast, swallowing too much air, emotional stress, and drinking too much alcohol.
If they do not go away in two days, they are called persistent hiccups. And hiccups that last longer than a month are intractable hiccups. Causes of persistent or intractable hiccups include central nervous system problems, mental health issues, irritation of the nerves in the head or neck, and problems with the body’s chemical processes.
Symptoms of Hiccups
The only symptom of hiccups is the actual hiccup itself, which is the muscle spam in the abdomen. Hiccups are usually considered the symptom of another problem if they last longer than 24 to 48 hours.
Alternative Treatments for Hiccups
Over the counter treatments for hiccups usually merge into the category of home remedies, such as water, sugar, honey, or the use of a paper bag.
Many alternative treatments for hiccups exist, and most of them work for the majority of people who get hiccups. Most of these home remedies work by increasing the level of carbon dioxide in the blood. Some of these alternative treatments include holding your breath for 10 seconds, eating a teaspoon of sugar or honey, drinking a glass of cold water quickly, or breathing into a paper bag. Prolonged hiccups may benefit from acupuncture.
When is Medicinal Treatment Necessary?
Medical treatment is suggested if hiccups last longer than 48 hours. In cases where hiccups last longer than a month, a doctor should be consulted to find out if there are underlying medical problems. This condition is rare, so it may point to a serious health problem.
Persistent or intractable hiccups can range anywhere from acupuncture to hypnosis or common medicines. Even doctors will suggest many home remedies before medicine is prescribed. This is because often hiccups are not life threatening and do not point to any serious conditions. But if hiccups are a symptom of an underlying problem, further treatment for that problem may be necessary.
September 17th, 2008
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