The common hiccup is caused by an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle that separates the chest and abdomen and serves an important part in the body’s ability to breathe. As an involuntary contraction occurs, the vocal cords also close suddenly, causing the characteristic “hic” sound. While hiccups are relatively harmless for most individuals and last only a few minutes, some individuals experience hiccups as the result of a more serious underlying medical condition and endure a case of hiccups for several months at a time.
Generally speaking, the characteristic “hic” sound is the only sign of a case of the hiccups. Additionally, hiccups typically present few symptoms; however, common symptoms may include a slight tightening of the chest, a contraction of the abdomen or a narrowing of the throat that occurs as the hiccup is produced. Likewise, an external bodily reaction such as a jumping or moving of the shoulders may occur.
Several factors contribute to the onset of hiccups. Most short-term hiccups are caused by eating too much, drinking carbonated beverages, consuming too much alcohol, experiencing a sudden change in temperature or getting excited or stressed. Additionally, hiccups may be cause by more long-term issues. Factors contributing to long-term hiccups include nerve damage or irritation such as that from a hair in the ear touching or tickling the eardrum, a sore throat, laryngitis, a tumor or cyst in the neck or gastroesophageal reflux. Likewise, long-term hiccups may be caused by issues of the central nervous system or disruption of the metabolism.
Home Remedies for Hiccups
Typically hiccups resolve themselves without need for treatment; however, several home remedies can shorten the duration of hiccups and offer relief.
A spoonful of peanut butter or almond butter can eradicate symptoms almost instantaneously.
Additional treatment options include apple cider vinegar and sugar, bitters combined with lemon and sugar, and a drink upside-down.
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