Uncontrolled spasms of the diaphragm between normal breaths are termed as Hiccups.

During a hiccup

  • Firstly, diaphragm contracts and pulls down between normal breaths, sucking air in
  • Immediately after this, the top of the windpipe (trachea) closes briefly, to stop more air getting in. This makes the ‘hic’ sound.

Some hiccups can last for more than a couple of days (persistent hiccups). others might last longer than a month, ( intractable). If hiccups last long they can cause other co-morbid conditions:

  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Feeling sick
  • Embarrassment
  • Feeling low or depressed

Causes of Hiccups

There are no exact  causes yet  known, But it might be due to the phrenic nerve irritation that innervates the diaphragm .There are certain things that might actuate it

  • Eating and drinking too quickly – particularly gulping fizzy drinks
  • Over eating
  • Heartburn
  • Stress
  • Sudden changes in air temperature
  • Over stretching your neck
  • Certain drugs, such as drugs to treat anxiety (benzodiazepines)
  • Alcohol
  • Stomach stops working and becomes extended and bloated
  • An infection affecting your chest, or oesophagus
  • Chemotherapy, steroids or an opiods/painkillers such as morphine
  • Cancer is pressing on your diaphragm
  • Because of a brain tumour
  • Changes in blood chemistry. This may happen if the kidneys are not working normally or hypercalcaemia.

Things to Do (mild hiccups)

  • Gulping a glass of water
  • Eating a piece of dry bread slowly
  • Drinking water from the far side of a glass –  bend over to do this
  • Breathing in and out of a paper bag (not a plastic one and not for any longer than 1 minute)
  • Gargling with water
  • Taking a deep breath, hold it (several times)
  • Sucking on a lemon
  • Drinking peppermint water
  • Eating a teaspoon of dry sugar
  • Pulling knees up close to the chest
  • washing face with cold water
  • eyeball message

Treatment for Severe Hiccups

Persistent or intractable hiccups need medical attention.

  • Rule out the cause and treat it
  • The anti sickness drug metoclopramide (Maxolon)
  • A sedative, such as haloperidol or chlorpromazine
  • A drug to relax your muscles
  • lignocaine dipped cotton in ears