Hic-Sound of Hiccups

Have you ever experience this scenario? You are going out to a restaurant with your friends and having a dinner. When the food comes out, you immediately eat that because you are so starving. Suddenly you make a strange-loud-voice: hic-sound! Most of us may have experienced hiccups: an uncomfortable and can be an embarrassing moment. Hiccups usually occur only about a few minutes. But how if hiccups persist for a long time? Be careful! It could be a sign of serious disease.

What are hiccups?

Diaphragm movement. Photo credit: Flickr


Hiccups are one of breathing problems. They are sounds made by a sudden and reflex contraction of the diaphragm- a thin muscle below the lungs that helps to breathe. This sudden contraction sucks air into our lungs quickly and makes the top of windpipe (called epiglottis) close, thus making the typical ‘hic’ sound of hiccups.

What causes them?

Suppressing Hiccups. Photo credit: Flickr

When you watch a comedy on TV, the drunk comedians are usually hiccupping and slurring their words. But drinking alcohol is not the only cause of hiccups. Since they are related to respiration, some actions that disturb the way air comes in can cause hiccups. Eating too fast, smoking and chewing gums are some examples. Other activity that may irritate the diaphragm can also triggering hiccups. Eating too much fatty or spicy food and drinking too much alcohol and soda can make us susceptible to hiccups. This is because our stomach, which sits beneath to the diaphragm, is expanded thus makes the diaphragm contract.

How do you get rid of the hiccups?

Breathing into a paper bag. Photo credit: Flickr

The common ways to stop hiccups are by increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood and stimulating the vagus nerve (the nerve that helps to control the digestive motion of your stomach). You may be confused with that explanation but actually it’s quite easy to do. The simple way to increase the concentration of carbon monoxide in your blood is by holding your breath or breath repeatedly into a paper bag. While the way to stimulate your vagus nerve is by drinking water quickly or pulls on your tongue.

But what if you’ve tried those tricks and it doesn’t stop you from hiccupping?

Some theories mentioned that long-term hiccups that occur frequently and more than 3 hours may indicate a serious health problem. For severe and persistent hiccups, you are recommended to see your doctor. These persistent hiccups may be a sign of disease related to the central nervous system such as brain cancer or stroke. It is because the nerves damaging in the area of the brain that controls the diaphragm. Infections and irritation of nerves around head, neck or chest also can trigger persistent hiccups.  Another indication is a metabolic problem like the dysfunction of the kidney. Doctors usually will prescribe drugs to relieve the nerve such as Chlorpromazine or Thorazine. The last effort to stop persistent hiccups is with surgery, which is by inactivated the nerve that responsible to control the diaphragm (the phrenic nerve).

Things to remember, if you don’t want to embarrass yourself in special dinner occasion – shocking everybody with your ‘hic-sound’- take moderate portion, eat slowly and don’t drink too much alcohol😊