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Hiccups!

July 15, 2010 by  


science 07-12-10

A hiccup or hiccough (pronounced /hkp/ HICK-up) is a contraction of the diaphragm that repeats several times per minute. In humans, the abrupt rush of air into the lungs causes the epiglottis to close, creating a “hic” sound.

In medicine it is known as synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (SDF), orsingultus, from the Latin singult, “the act of catching one’s breath while sobbing”. The hiccup is an involuntary action involving a reflex arc.

A bout of hiccups, in general, resolves itself without intervention, although manyhome remedies claim to shorten the duration, and medical treatment is occasionally necessary in cases of chronic hiccups.

Hiccups are caused by many central and peripheral nervous system disorders, all from injury or irritation to the phrenic and vagus nerves, as well as toxic or metabolic disorders affecting the aforementioned systems. Hiccups often occur after consuming carbonated beverages,alcohol, dry breads, or spicy foods. Prolonged laughter or eating too fast are also known to cause hiccups. Persistent or intractable hiccups may be caused by any condition which irritates or damages the relevant nerves. Chemotherapy—which can include a huge number of different drugs—has been implicated in hiccups (some data states 30 percent of patients), while other studies have not demonstrated such a relationship. Many times chemotherapy is applied to tumors sitting at places that are by themselves prone to cause hiccups, if irritated.

Ordinary hiccups are cured easily without medical intervention. However, there are a number of anecdotal treatments for casual cases of hiccups. Some of the more common home remedies include giving the afflicted a fright or shock, eating peanut butter, taking a teaspoon of vinegar, drinking water (sometimes in an unorthodox manner, such as drinking the water upside down), holding one’s breath and altering one’s breathing patterns. A solution involving sugar placed on or under the tongue was cited in the December 23, 1971 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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