What is a Hiccup?

Hic.... Hic…. Hic.. Hic.. Hic. Hic. Hic.

Every once in a while, we hiccupped. We pause and let that uncontrollable movement deep inside us do its business.  And it is a very big hassle to us! Hiccup distracts us, and the feelings associated to it really make us feel uncomfortable. But what is a hiccup? How does it happen? Can we prevent it?

A hiccup, sometimes spelled as hiccough, is a contraction of the diaphragm that repeats several times per minute. Medically, it is known as synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (SDF) or simply, singultus, from the Latin singult or “the act of catching one’s breath while sobbing.” It is a cough, and “hic” sound is generated as the sudden rush of air into the lungs prompts the vocal cords to close and create that sound.

There are several causes of hiccups. Here are some factors that trigger hiccups, listed from the more ordinary to the extreme causes:

  • After consumption of carbonated beverages, alcohol, dry breads, and even spicy foods.
  • Eating too fast.
  • Prolonged laughter.
  • Injury or irritation to the phrenic and vagus nerves.
  • Nervous system disorders, including toxic or metabolic factors that affect the nervous system.
  • Hyperglycemia.
  • Pleural effusion.
  • As a side effect of a medicine, including some drugs administered in chemotherapy.

In relation to the medicines that can cause hiccup, here are some medicines that include hiccup as a side effect:

  • Ativan
  • Clorazepate
  • Corax
  • Diazepam
  • Dopar
  • Ethyol
  • Felbatol
  • Librium
  • Lobac
  • Mexitil
  • Mitran
  • Nicotine
  • Nicotine chewing gums
  • Paraflex
  • Paxipam
  • Solium
  • Valium
  • Versed
  • Xanax
  • Zofran

Normally, hiccups just disappear or that they resolve on their own without medical intervention. However, there are some norms on how hiccups can be treated. Although there are question on their effectivity, here are some common home remedies for hiccups:

  • Giving the person with hiccup a shock or fright.
  • Sticking a finger in the mouth to massage the back of the throat.
  • Taking a teaspoon of vinegar.
  • Drinking a full glass through a paper towel.
  • Holding one’s breath and altering one’s breathing patterns.

In severe and persistent cases (like hiccupping for several days already), hiccups must be treated medically. Sedatives and medicines like Haloperidol, metoclopramide, chlorpromazine, and baclofen are administered, but only under the supervision and prescriptions of the appropriate doctor.

Hiccups are not only limited to humans. In dogs, hiccups are generally the result of late stage liver disease.


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