Hiccups - Causes and Treatments?

Everyone seems to have their own cure for hiccups, whether it's drinking a noxious combination of liquids, thinking of the last time you saw a white horse, or having someone scare the hiccups out of you.  With all of these home remedies, are any of them a true cure? Is there a true cure?

What Are Hiccups?

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a hiccup is "an unintentional movement (spasm) of the diaphragm, the muscle at the base of the lungs. The spasm is followed by quick closing of the vocal cords, which produces a distinctive sound."  What this means is that the diaphragm, the muscle used for breathing, contracts and causes the vocal chords to close off and make that 'hiccup' noise.  


What causes hiccups?

While there are some causes for hiccups such as abdominal surgery, diaphragm disease, harmful fumes, hot and spicy liquids, or stroke affecting the brain.  But, in most cases, there is no apparent cause for hiccups.  The cause of hiccups is something that has perplexed scientists for quite a long time.  While not much progress has been made, researchers believe they may have found a cause.  The researchers believe that hiccups are an evolutionary trait to teach mammals how to suckle.  They believe that the movements and bodily actions involved in hiccuping are the same as suckling.  The next step in seeing if this is actually the cause is to look at brain scans during hiccuping and suckling to see is the neuron firing is the same in both behaviors.


While the cause of hiccups is indeed interesting, the more practical information for us, is how to get rid of hiccups.  While most bouts of the hiccups only last two minutes or so and are more inconvenient then painful, sometimes this is not the case.  To date, there is no definite cure for hiccups.  If the hiccups have a direct cause such as diaphragm disease, they can be cured by treating that disease.  But, most cases of hiccups have no such cause, and thus, have no such direct treatments.  

Most treatments involve distracting the vagus nerve (which connects the brain and abdomen) and by altering carbon dioxide levels in the body to distract it.  Most remedies rely on one of these two reasons. Some such remedies that are worth trying according to NYU Medical Center are: dissolving a spoonful of sugar on your tongue (stimulates the vagus nerve), being startled (distracts vagus nerve), counting down from 100 (distracts brain from the hiccuping), holding your breath and swallowing (disrupts the hiccuping schedule), or holding your breath (increases carbon dioxide levels and forces your body to focus on the more important issue).

If hiccups last for a period of days and disrupt sleeping or working they become intractable and more extreme remedies are needed.  One such new remedy proposed by Roni and Aya Peleg is sexual intercourse.


So what is your treatment of choice for hiccups?


Hiccups are awful. Although I rarely get them, when I do, it seems like I am battling the hiccups all day. It becomes very unpleasant and I have yet to find a sure-fire way to make them stop. My day long battles are nothing compared to the longest bout of hiccuping in history. Check out this site (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Osborne_(hiccups)) about Charles Osborne. He had the hiccups for 68 years! He had multiple operations to try to fix what the doctors thought were the problems and nothing was sucessful. About one year before he died, his hiccups stopped. Can you imagine the disruption to your daily life if you were hiccuping all day every day? How could you sleep or work or have conversations with people? Think about having to interact with someone all day and having every or every other sentence interupted with an annoying hiccup.

I agree that hiccups are very annoying and can be very difficult to deal with. Whenever I get the hiccups, I hold my breath, and that generally works for me. However, I know other people who use different methods, and they seem to work for them. And while having the hiccups for an extended period of time can be extremely frustrating, I would think that this girl would have had an even worse time as she could not stop sneezing (http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/33852290/ns/today-today_health/t/achoo-girl-sneezing-times-minute/#.UIWR5bRJ_WE ). To me, that would just be downright awful.

I have a unique relationship with hiccups. I get them every day, at least three times a day. But here's the catch, I never hiccup more than three times. I hiccup 1-3 times and then they're gone until the next time I get them that day. I've looked up possible reasons behind my strange hiccuping schedule but I can never find articles about my specific problem, only information on chronic hiccuping and other extreme hiccups. By no means are mine extreme or painful, they're just something I've gotten used to. I've never really been concerned or thought it was a serious issue so I continue to live my life with my daily hiccups. If you ever hear a random squeak in the middle of class, you'll know its me.

Of course everyone can relate to having the hiccups and I feel like everyone has their own remedy. But I can absolutely, unequivocally say that I have found the cure. If the person with the hiccups places a pen in their mouth horizontally and then proceeds to drink from a water fountain or from a sink for about 30 seconds, the hiccups will settle. If my hiccups are severe, I do this 2 to 3 times and they go away every single time.
It sounds trivial, but for those of you that try this, it will be the only remedy you use in the future.

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