HICCUPS: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW | Dr. Yeibake Weriwoyingipre Silver

Hiccups, or singultus, are involuntary contractions of the diaphragm muscle. It is an abnormal breathing pattern. 

Normal breathing is possible as the diaphragm, a muscle directly under the lungs that separates the chest from the abdomen, works together with other chest muscles by contracting and relaxing in a controlled manner, allowing air to enter and leave the lungs at a fixed amount and rate.

Irritation of this major muscle makes it contract involuntarily, causing a sudden intake of air, which is then stopped by the vocal cords (a set of soft tissues in our throat that is involved in voice generation) closing, resulting in the the characteristic "HIC" sound.

Hiccups are normally harmless and transitory, but they can be annoying and disruptive. The condition usually lasts a few minutes but can persist for up to 2 days. 

Although the specific cause of hiccups is not always evident, they can be provoked by several events such as eating too rapidly, eating large meals, consuming carbonated beverages, hot or spicy food, indigestion, excessive alcohol intake, smoking, bad odours, abrupt temperature changes, emotional stress, and pregnancy. 

Frequent and prolonged hiccups (lasting more than 2 days) are triggered by diseases like oesophagitis (inflammation of the gullet), pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs), pleurisy (inflammation of the coverings of the lungs), stroke, brain tumour, thyroid disease, kidney disease, some epilepsy medicines, nicotine gum, chest, and abdominal surgeries. 

To relieve hiccups, several measures are designed to disrupt the abnormal breathing pattern and restore normal respiration. These include breathing into a paper bag, sipping ice-cold or hot water, holding breath, taking deep breaths, eating a spoonful of sugar, sitting down and leaning forward over the knees, suck on a slice of lemon. 

When hiccups are prolonged (chronic forms) or are severe enough to affect sleep, rest, eating, drinking, or other important functions, the patient should consult competent medical experts for proper evaluation and treatment is necessary. 

Dr. Yeibake Weriwoyingipre Silver
Senior Registrar, 
Faculty Of Pediatrics, WACP.

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