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Know the basics

What are hiccups?

Hiccups are repetitive, uncontrollable contractions of the diaphragm — the thin layer of muscle that separates your chest cavity from your abdomen and has the responsibility for breathing. Each contraction is followed by a sudden closure of your vocal cords, which produces the characteristic “hic” sound.

How common are hiccups?

Hiccups are extremely common. They can affect patients at any age. They can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of hiccups?

The only symptom of hiccups is the characteristic sound of a hiccup. Symptoms can also be a slight tightening sensation in your chest, abdomen or throat that precedes the sound.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What cause hiccups?

The most common causes of hiccups that last around 48 hours include:

  • Eating too much food too quickly;
  • Drinking too much alcohol;
  • Swallowing too much air/ Swallowing air with chewing gum or sucking on candy;
  • Smoking;
  • A sudden change in stomach temperature;
  • Emotional stress or excitement.

However, hiccups that last more than 48 hours may be caused by a variety of factors, such as:

  • Nerve damage or irritation;
  • Central nervous system disorders;
  • Metabolic disorders and drugs.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for hiccups?

Men are much more likely to develop long-term hiccups than are women. There are many risk factors for hiccups, such as:

  • Mental or emotional issues: anxiety, stress, and excitement have been associated with some cases of short-term and long-term hiccups.
  • Surgery: some people develop hiccups after undergoing general anesthesia or after procedures that involve abdominal organs.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How are hiccups diagnosed?

A neurological exam might be required to check balance and coordination, muscle strength and tone, reflexes, sight and sense of touch. If your doctor suspects further underlying cause for your hiccups, further tests and procedures might be needed, which include:

  • Laboratory tests: samples of your blood may be checked for signs of infection, diabetes, and kidney disease.
  • Imaging tests: these tests are to detect anatomical abnormalities that may be affecting the vagus nerve, phrenic nerve or diaphragm. Some tests include chest X-ray, computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Endoscopic tests: these procedures utilize a thin, flexible tube containing a tiny camera, which is passed down your throat to check for problems in your esophagus or windpipe.

How are hiccups treated?

Most cases of hiccups can stop without medical intervention. If an underlying medical condition is the cause of your hiccup, treatment of that illness may be necessary to stop the condition. These following treatments are for hiccups that last more than 48 hours:

  • Medications: Chlorpromazine, Metoclopramide, Baclofen.
  • Surgical and other procedures: if less invasive treatments aren’t effective, your doctor may recommend an injection of an anesthetic to block your phrenic nerve to stop hiccups. Another alternative is to surgically implant a battery-operated device to deliver mild electrical stimulation to your vagus nerve to help control persistent hiccups.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage hiccups?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with hiccups:

Although these below ways are not scientifically proven, the following popular home remedies may provide relief:

  • Breathe into a paper bag;
  • Gargle with ice water;
  • Hold your breath;
  • Sip cold water.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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