Hic! Hic! All of us have had the hiccups many times in life. Sometimes it causes laughter, other times despair and, when it happens to our children, I am positive you have tried several home remedies to try to calm it down.

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But, have you ever wondered where that peculiar noise comes from? How is it produced? How can we treat it? Is it normal? When should we go to the doctor?

What is hiccups?

Hiccups is very common in babies, but also in older children and adults. It is very common and normal.

“It is a response of the organism to a spasm or irritation suffered by the diaphragm, a muscle located between the abdomen and the thorax used for breathing”, says Dr. Mónica Soto, a general practitioner, graduated from the Faculty of Medicine of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

“The stomach is placed just below the diaphragm. When it is distended, it irritates nerves that produce some discharges that cause the diaphragm to contract suddenly, abruptly and involuntarily. The glottis closes and therefore the vocal cords close, too”.

“This process happens really quickly; produces the noise we all know as hiccups, the classic ‘hic’. Is self-limited, benign, and usually does not express any symptoms of serious illness”, adds the physician.

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What causes the hiccups?

  • In the case of babies, it is very common after a milk intake. It could be because he ate too fast, too eagerly, or swallowed too much air. Another cause is that he was full and the stomach distends. Other cause is that he has cried a lot and swallowed a lot of air.
  • Older children or adults it is also due to having a very full stomach, or drinking very hot or very cold drinks. The gas in soft drinks can also cause the hiccups. Sometimes there is no specific cause for the stimulation of this organ.
According to the Mayo Clinic

In its article, Hipo: síntomas y causas, otros detonantes (Hiccups: Symptoms and Causes, other triggers) includes, “Drinking fizzy drinks, drinking too much alcohol, eating too much, sudden changes in temperature, eating too much, having a large meal, alcoholic beverages, or a sudden emotion”.

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What to do to treat the hiccups?

“Actually, nothing, just wait until it disappears after a few minutes. There are a lot of parents who worry about their babies having the hiccups.

In general…

All the methods used to eliminate hiccups basically consist of stretching and relaxing the diaphragm.

You can lay the baby on his right side. If he is very young, the mother can breastfeed him so he can drink milk and stimulate gastric emptying.

“Surely, many know the homemade hacks for older children or adults: taking a teaspoon of honey, holding your breath, covering your nose and mouth as if you were going to unblock your ears, blowing in a paper bag, putting sugar on your tongue, taking sips of plain water”, says Dr. Soto.

Many moms would add what is perhaps the most famous remedy: someone scaring you! Boo!

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Should we worry about the hiccups?

Most of the time there is nothing to worry about, it usually lasts a short time and just goes away.

Baby cases:

“You should see a doctor when the hiccups lasts more than three hours or when there are also other symptoms such as crying, irritability and fever. In those cases, the doctor should evaluate the baby in case there is an injury that manifests itself through the hiccups”.

Rest of the cases:

The most usual thing is that it disappears between three and five minutes without doing any unnecessary things. Very rarely, the hiccups lasts for days, even months. You should go to the doctor when the hiccups lasts more than 20 days.

“The expert will determine if studies are necessary or what therapeutic measures are convenient according to each case”, concludes the expert.

Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara

Here: Spanish version

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