Imagine going out on a first date with that one special person you so adore, having your date night all perfectly planned out, but only to be embarrassed by hiccups that just won’t go away. It feels so maddening that something as insignificant as an involuntary contraction can be such a date spoiler. Other times, you may be in a meeting, a presentation or getting set for a stage performance. These are times you surely do not want to be hiccuping.
Just about everyone may experience hiccups but sometimes, they occur at the worst of times.
According to physiologists, hiccups are sudden involuntary contractions of the diaphragm muscle. As the muscle contracts repeatedly, the opening between the vocal cords snaps shut to check the inflow of air and makes the hiccup sound. It is the irritation of the nerves that extend from the neck to the chest that most times causes hiccups (not all the time though).
What causes hiccups?
Physiological studies have found many health conditions to be associated with hiccups, but none has been proven to be solely a remote cause of hiccups.
Eating too fast can cause a person to swallow air along with food and end up with hiccups.
Eating too much and drinking too much (especially alcohol or carbonated drinks) can also irritate the diaphragm and make a person have hiccups.
Smoking or chewing gum can also cause a person to swallow air and get hiccups.
Also, strokes or brain tumors involving the brain stem, and some chronic medical disorders (such as renal failure) are reported to cause hiccups; trauma to the brain,meningitis and encephalitis also may cause hiccups.
Damage to the vagus or phrenic nerve may also cause hiccups but it lasts a longer time.
Problems with the liver, including swelling, infection, or masses can cause irritation of the diaphragm, which can cause hiccups.
Some medications that can cause acid reflux may also have hiccups as a side effect.
A baby may hiccup after crying or coughing. This is especially common with babies under one year.
Anxiety or stress can also induce both short and long-term hiccups.
Medical experts explain that in all these instances, the stomach, which sits underneath and adjacent to the diaphragm, is bloated or stretched. Because hiccups occur most times while eating or drinking, they are sometimes thought to be a reflex engineered by nature to protect a person from choking.
How to get rid of hiccups
Numerous immediate remedies to stop hiccups exist. The reason these remedies are thought to work is that carbon dioxide build-up in the blood will stop hiccups, which is what happens when a person holds their breath.
The following methods have proven to be effective in getting rid of the hiccups on your own.
Hold your breath
Inhale a deep breath and hold it for a few seconds. Then exhale slowly. If possible inhale through your mouth. While exhaling the air, try to withhold some. Repeat as many times as possible till the hiccups get cured.
Drink a glass of water quickly
Drinking a glass of water quickly places a strain on your abdominal muscles which could help end your hiccups. You can use a straw to aid you. Also, it has to be pure water and not alcohol or other carbonated drinks that rather cause hiccups.
Try sneezing or coughing
In order to induce a sneeze, you can take a little sniff of pepper or smelly salts. Sneezing puts abdominal muscles under intense pressure which in turn have the tendency to upset a hiccuping action and possibly end it.
Have someone frighten you (or better, surprise the person)
It is believed that a sudden scare can jump-start your breathing pattern and also stimulate the nervous system and hopefully bring your hiccups to a halt.
Stimulate the vagus nerve by;
Letting a spoonful of sugar slowly dissolve on your tongue.
Eating a spoonful of honey.
Tickling the roof of your mouth with a cotton swab.
Sticking your fingers in your ear.
Sipping water slowly and letting it hit the roof of your mouth.
Pulling hard on your tongue.
Hiccups are rarely a cause for concern, but if hiccups become frequent, chronic, and persistent (lasting more than 3 hours), if they affect sleeping patterns, interfere with eating, cause reflux of food or vomiting, occur with severe abdominal pain, fever, shortness of breath, spitting up blood, or feeling as if the throat is going to close up, see a doctor.