Unraveling the Mystery of Hiccups

Hiccups are a reflexive spasm of the diaphragm, and they can happen to anyone from newborns to the elderly. It's even common for babies in the womb to be seen hiccuping on ultrasounds, according to Dr. Stacey Milunic. She is a family medicine physician from Penn State Health.

But what triggers them remains unclear.

"We don't know for sure what causes them," Milunic said in a university news release. "It's not well understood."

Many people develop hiccups when experiencing emotional states, such as anxiety or overexcitement. Or after eating a large meal or drinking carbonated beverages.

Hiccups are sometimes a side effect of medication or can occur after a medical procedure such as an endoscopy or after receiving anesthesia. Some people blame hiccups on alcohol, smoking, chewing gum and eating spicy foods.

"Basically, anything that distends or expands the stomach or potentially could irritate it can bring them on," Milunic said.

While they can be irritating and embarrassing, hiccups rarely indicate a more serious, underlying medical condition.

Most cases disappear within 48 hours, but there are rare cases of intractable hiccups, which are more common in men than women.

"If you are hiccuping for more than two days, you would want to call your doctor," Milunic said. "Rarely, but on occasion, it could be a sign of damage to the nerve or another serious medical condition."

People use a number of methods to try to stop their hiccups, including holding their breath, breathing into a paper bag, asking someone to scare them or putting cold compresses on their face.

Milunic said her personal favorite is drinking water from the opposite side of the glass.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on hiccups.

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Unraveling the Mystery of Hiccups - Consumer HealthDay

For this group of patients, aspirational pneumonia is a common cause of death. "If you are hiccuping for more than two days, you would want to call your doctor Milunic said. Yet its difficult to prove any of these approaches will work because most hiccups start and stop automatically too Much TV Raises Women’s Odds for Early-Onset Colon Cancer: Study for no apparent reason. Perhaps you ate too quickly, got too excited or drank something carbonated. So do cats, rats and human foetuses. "Each one of us individuals has aHA News: High Blood Pressure Top Risk Factor for Stroke in Young Adults a breathing sweet spot.". Treatment for...

"Rarely, but on occasion, it could be a sign of damage to the nerve or another serious medical condition.". Similarly, Cymet has used breathing exercises, cognitive behavioural therapy and even yoga or Pilates for the hundreds of hiccupers he has seen over the years. Cymet, head of medical education at the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, performed a five-year study involving 54 hospital patients with hiccups. The 29-year-old has had hiccup spells for as long as she can remember; doctors say they may be linked to acid reflux disease, which she has had since she was a baby. But often there's no clear trigger.