Hiccups – Causes and Treatments

HiccupsHiccups are a very common body reflex that rarely lasts for more than 48 hours. This automatic and uncontrollable action occurs when the diaphragm (muscle under the lungs) contracts very suddenly. After the diaphragm contracts, the windpipe (glottis) closes immediately, creating the trademark “hic” sound. Unlike other body reflexes, such as coughing and sneezing (which help rid the nasal cavity of germs and irritants), hiccups have no known purpose.

Most of the time, hiccups start for no apparent reason, last for a short time, then stop abruptly on their own within a few minutes. Sometimes, their root cause can be traced to:

  • Temporary abdominal swelling that results from eating too fast, overeating, drinking carbonated beverages, or swallowing air
  • Excitement
  • Tiredness or exhaustion
  • Sudden stress or embarrassment
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Excessive smoking
  • A rapid change in temperature (e.g., taking a hot or cold shower, eating hot or cold foods, drinking hot or cold beverages)

Hiccups are usually nothing more than a minor nuisance. Very rarely, lasting hiccups may be caused by an underlying health condition that requires treatment, such as acid reflux. However, in these cases, other symptoms are usually readily apparent.

There are many popular anecdotal remedies for hiccups, such as sipping ice water, biting a lemon, gasping in fright, breathing into a paper bag, or holding your breath, most of which are based on the idea of disrupting the hiccup cycle. However, none of these remedies are backed by scientific research and their actual effectiveness is unproven.

If you have hiccups that last for more than 48 hours, or if you are experiencing frequent short bouts of hiccups, you should consult with a doctor who can determine if there is an underlying cause that needs to be addressed. At South Tampa Immediate Care, one of the doctors at our walk-in clinic can evaluate your condition and, if necessary, recommend treatment quickly so that you can start feeling better as soon as possible. Contact or visit us today. No appointments are necessary.