It is likely that you have wondered at least once in your life about the causes of hiccups. However, chances are high that you may start thinking about it when you suddenly get a bout of hiccups, although as you drink a glass of water to help it subside, the thought goes away.
In this article, we will discuss the causes of hiccups and what you can do to make them stop. Read on to find out more!
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What are Hiccups?
Hiccups are caused when the diaphragm--the muscle just below your lungs--repeatedly and involuntary contracts.
The diaphragm separates the chest from the abdomen and controls breathing. Hiccups result from the diaphragm contracting at an irregular rhythm. The larynx (voice box) and vocal cords abruptly close with each diaphragmatic spasm. The result is a burst of inhaled air. A hiccuping sound is made when your body reacts with a gasp or chirp.
As you may have already noticed, you cannot anticipate hiccups. The majority of cases of hiccups begin and end suddenly, seemingly without cause. Scientists are still trying to make sense of possible causes of hiccups, although there are some pointers that help explain probable reasons.
What are the Causes of Hiccups in Adults?
There is not much clarity on what triggers or what stops hiccups. Hiccups are not painful and are usually resolved on their own without the need for any treatment.
Newborns commonly experience hiccups, but they usually aren't bothered by them, and the temporary problem doesn't call for any special care or treatment. Read more about how to get rid of newborn hiccups.
Some common causes of hiccups are listed below:
- Overeating during a meal
- Eating very spicy food
- Drinking alcohol
- Drinking carbonated beverages, like sodas
- Eating very hot or very cold foods
- A sudden change in room temperature
- Aerophagia (swallowing too much air)
- Swallowing air while chewing gum or driking water
- Getting excited or stressed
Sometimes, however, hiccups can last for longer than usual. In most cases, this is due to irritation or damage to the nerves that supply the diaphragm. Damage to these nerves can be caused by anything from a hair touching the eardrum to a sore throat, to something more serious like a tumor, goiter, or cyst in the neck.
Prolonged hiccuping can also result from metabolic disorders like diabetes or kidney failure, or central nervous system disorders like encephalitis or meningitis. Steroids and some tranquilizers are also drug triggers for chronic hiccups.
It's also possible to get hiccups during surgery, particularly if general anesthesia is used. Be sure to visit a medical professional if your hiccups have lasted longer than two days, are severe enough to prevent you from eating, breathing or sleeping, or have been causing you undue stress.
How to Stop Hiccups in Adults Immediately
No matter the causes of hiccups, they usually resolve on their own within a few minutes. However, you can use some home remedies to quicken the process:
- Drink a glass of water
- Breathe into a paper bag for a few minutes
- Eat a small amount of granulated sugar
- Lift your uvula, which is the fleshy piece of tissue that’s suspended above the back of your throat, with a clean spoon
- Try to purposefully gasp or belch
- Bring your knees to your chest while lying down and maintain this position
- Try the Valsalva maneuver - shut your mouth and nose and exhale forcibly
- Relax and breathe slowly in a controlled manner.
Check out these deep yoga breathing exercises for stress and anxiety.
If your hiccups persist for more than a few hours, you should see a doctor.