Hiccups are medically known as synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (SDF) or singultus. A hiccup occurs when the diaphragm suddenly contracts involuntarily, while at the same time the larynx (voice box) contracts too and the glottis closes, effective blocking the flow of air.
What causes hiccups?
A very full stomach can cause bouts of hiccups that go away on their own. A full stomach can be caused by:
- Eating too much food too quickly.
- Drinking too much alcohol.
- Swallowing too much air.
A sudden change in stomach temperature, such as drinking a hot beverage and then a cold beverage.
Emotional stress or excitement.
Here are some tips for dealing with a bout of hiccups that you can do on your own:
1. Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as possible. Don’t forget to hold your nose!
2. Breathe into a paper bag (do not cover your head with the bag
3. Massage the roof of your mouth. This must be done very carefully with a cotton swab. If you have a steady hand and a decent gag reflex you can also try massaging the back of your throat and stimulating your uvula (the cone shaped tissue that hangs there).
4. Eat a spoonful of peat butter or sugar. Any excuse for a delicious snack, right? Sticky foods are perfect for stimulating the vagus muscle.
5. Cough, burp or sneeze. If you can manage to do any of these things, they can help alleviate your hiccups. The belief is that these actions cause your diaphragm to constrict and thus stop them in their tracks.
6. Place gentle pressure on your nose while you swallow.
7. Surprisingly, branches of the vagus muscle reach all the way into your auditory system. As such, it can be stimulated by sticking your fingers into your ears. Just be careful not to push too far or hard.
8. Gently compress your chest, this can be achieved by leaning forward. You can also bring your knees to your chest and hug them for a couple of minutes.
9. Take a thin slice of lemon, place it on your tongue and suck it like a sweet.
10. Burping – some people find that if they consume a fizzy drink and burp, their hiccups go away. However, some doctors warn that sodas may trigger hiccups.
The treatment for persistent or intractable hiccups depends on the underlying cause of the hiccups and may range from medicine to acupuncture or hypnosis. Sometimes several treatments may be tried before persistent or intractable hiccups are controlled. If you have hiccups that last a few days or longer, your doctor may conduct tests to rule out a more serious problem.