Table of contents:
Hiccup is an involuntary reflex of the diaphragm and other muscles of the chest, followed by the closing of the glottis and vibration of the vocal cords, therefore producing a characteristic noise, which can happen when the person eats a lot or eats too fast.
This spasm can also be triggered by irritation of a nerve, such as the vagus nerve or the phrenic nerve, or the part of the brain that controls the respiratory muscles, so it can also happen during situations of high emotional stress or during sudden temperature changes, for example.
Usually hiccups disappear after a few minutes, however if they are persistent or frequent, it is important that the doctor is consulted so that the cause of the hiccup is investigated and, thus, the best treatment is indicated, if necessary.
The main causes of hiccups are:
- Dilation of the stomach,caused by excess food or fizzy drinks;
- Consumption of alcoholic beverages;
- Gastrointestinal diseases, such as gastroesophageal reflux, for example;
- Changes in blood electrolytes, such as decreased calcium, potassium, or sodium;
- Kidney failure, which causes excess urea in the blood;
- Decreased CO2 in the bloodstream, caused by rapid breathing;
- Infections, such as gastroenteritis or pneumonia;
- Respiratory or abdominal inflammation, such as bronchitis, esophagitis, pericarditis, cholecystitis, hepatitis, or inflammatory bowel disease;
- Surgeries in the chest or abdomen;
- Brain diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, meningitis or brain cancer, for example.
Despite these possible causes, it is still unclear how these changes lead to spasms of the diaphragm and chest.
Most of the time, the cause of the hiccup is not serious, however, if it persists for more than 2 days, or if it is accompanied by other symptoms that indicate diseases such as pneumonia or brain diseases, it is necessary to consult the clinician general to investigate the cause.
Causes of hiccups in baby
Hiccups in the baby are very common and can even happen before birth, still in the mother's womb. This could be because your chest muscles and diaphragm are still developing and so in most cases it's nothing to worry about. Learn what to do to stop your baby's hiccups.
However, if the hiccup lasts longer than 1 day, or is disturbing the baby to sleep or breastfeed, it may have other causes, such as infections or inflammations, for example, so it is important to consult the pediatrician, for proper investigation and treatment.
How to stop hiccups
Usually hiccups resolve spontaneously within a few minutes, but in some cases it can last for up to 2 days. Thus, it is important that the cause of the hiccup is identified, so that specific treatment can be performed, if necessary.
There are also some simple methods that can be done to make the hiccup go away faster, such as drinking cold water, holding your breath for a few seconds, or breathing into a paper bag, for example, that stimulate the vagus nerve and increase CO2 levels in the blood. See more details on how to hiccup.
When it might be worrying
Although hiccups are almost always harmless and go away on their own, there are situations in which they can indicate a he alth problem. Therefore, it is important to see a doctor if hiccups:
- It takes more than 2 days to disappear;
- Makes it difficult to fall asleep;
- Difficult to speak or cause excessive tiredness.
In these cases, the hiccups may be caused by changes in the functioning of the brain or an organ in the thoracic region, such as the liver or stomach, and the doctor may recommend a chest X-ray and blood tests to investigate the cause of the hiccup and thus be able to indicate the most appropriate treatment.