Remember the time you used to believe that hiccups occur when somebody misses you? We all have heard this lie all our lives which started with our parents and grandparents. The folklore believes that you get hiccups when somebody is talking about you or missing you. And that you should go through a list, the name your hiccup stops at is the person missing you or talking about you. 

There are plenty of theories as to why you get hiccups – given by ancient India, and medieval cultures. Science has its theory too, which has to do with your diaphragm. We will get to it in a while. 

No doubt, hiccups are annoying. But the good news is they are short-lived. However, there are cases when they’re not. If the episodes persist longer than 48 hours,  they may point to something else. They can point to certain diseases and health conditions that demand your attention. 

This blog will discuss the causes of hiccups and tips to provide relief if they’re persistent. 

What causes hiccups? 

When hiccups are acute, they’re a reflex action that takes place when your diaphragm contracts and causes the shaking of your chest and abdomen muscles. Following this, the glottis, which has your vocal cords, closes. When that happens, a noise is produced as the air is expelled from your lungs. This noise is your hiccup. 

You may get hiccups when you:

  • Have a heavy meal
  • There is a change in temperature 
  • You are either stressed or excited
  • Drink alcoholic and carbonated drinks
  • Chew gum

While these types of hiccups are normal and go away on their own, others are not. If they last for more than 48 hours, they can point to the following disorders:  

  • Stroke
  • Meningitis
  • Tumour
  • Head trauma
  • Goitre
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Nerve irritation
  • Eardrum irritation
  • Gastrointestinal reflux and related diseases
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Bronchitis
  • Asthma
  • emphysema
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Heart attack
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • diabetes
  • Kidney disease

How do I make acute hiccups stop? 

  • Hold your breath and swallow. Repeat 3 times. 
  • Breathe into a paper bag. Do not continue if you feel lightheaded
  • Drink a glass of water
  • Swallow a teaspoon of sugar
  • Gargle with water
  • Practice breathing Exercises to relax your diaphragm.  Inhale for 5 counts, exhale for 5 counts. Hold your breath for 15-20 seconds. 
  • Hug your knee and put pressure on your diaphragm.
  • Apply gentle pressure to certain areas, such as your nose bridge or the sides of your neck to relax your diaphragm. 
  • Massage your carotid artery. Gently rub the sides of your neck.
  • Eat or Drink: You can also stimulate the nerves connected to your diaphragm by eating or drinking certain things:
  • Sip ice-cold water.
  • Suck on an ice cube.
  • Get someone to do a simple back pat. Ask someone to pat your upper back along the spine.
  • Gently pull your tongue forward twice. 
  • Plug both ear canals with your fingers

When can these hiccups become serious? 

If you are having hiccups that last more than 2 days or interfere with day-to-day activities such as eating, breathing, or sleeping, connect with your doctor.

Closing thoughts

Hiccups result from involuntary contractions of the diaphragm, triggered by a variety of factors such as overeating, consuming carbonated beverages, sudden temperature changes, and emotional stress. While they are usually harmless and short-lived, hiccups can occasionally be persistent and require medical attention.

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