Why Do You Hiccup?

What is a hiccup? What causes it? Find out the answers to these questions by reading this article.

Nearly everyone has experienced a stubborn, annoying bout with hiccups, and there's always someone ready to give their favorite cure. What causes them? Are they ever a cause for real concern? Do any of the suggested cures work, or are they just old wives' tales?

One suspected cause of hiccups is a shortage of carbon dioxide in the blood, but they can be triggered by many things. Eating spicy food, drinking alcoholic beverages, a disease that irritates the diaphragm are some examples, though they can also start for no apparent reason. Chronic illnesses such as strokes or tumors in the brain can also cause hiccups. Most often, they are harmless and will go away on their own. In extreme cases, however, hiccups can actually be fatal. A bout of hiccups lasting for days is rare, but can wear down the sufferer preventing him from getting adequate rest or eating properly.

Most cures are based on simply believing they'll work, or by distracting the hiccup sufferer. But since many cases may be based on a carbon dioxide shortage, anything that slows or interrupts normal breathing patterns can get rid of the hiccups. Here are some cures to try:

Holding breath for as long as you can

Drinking water: some suggest taking about ten sips without breathing in between

Breathing in and out of a paper bag

Being startled

Eating a spoonful of sugar

Tickling the back of the throat to stimulate the gag reflex

Eating a lemon wedge

Eating a spoonful of peanut butter

When a case of hiccups persists for an extended time, a physician may prescribe medication or other procedures.

It probably doesn't matter which cure a hiccup sufferer tries or whose advice he follows; most cases will go away on their own. But in the meantime, its nice to have a list of things to try. If hiccups persist for longer than a few hours, or re-occur often, see a doctor to rule out illness as a cause.

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