Causes and cures of hiccups

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For most of us, hiccups are no more than a noisy nuisance. For other unfortunate individuals, hiccups can be so persistent that they lead to malnutrition, weight loss, fatigue, dehydration and insomnia. Persistent hiccups like these occur more frequently in men, but even infants can get hiccups. In fact, babies can get hiccups before they’re even born, with fetal hiccups occurring most commonly in the third trimester.

Some hiccups can be cured by simply treating their cause. Some of the known causes of hiccups include:
1. Malingering (pretending to be ill)
2. Tobacco use
3. Brainstem tumors
4. Sudden changes in gastrointestinal temperature
5. Foreign bodies in contact with the tympanic membrane (ear drum) in your ear
6. A rare complication of AIDS

Most other types of hiccups have no identifiable cause. There are a huge number of hiccup remedies out there, but here are the best known hiccup cures:
-Breathing into a bag
-Drinking from the opposite side of a glass (without a straw!)
-Swallowing granulated sugar
-Ice water gargles
-Biting on a lemon or lime
-Performing the Valsalva maneuver (done by exhaling with mouth closed and nostrils pinched shut or bearing down like your having a bowel movement)
-Holding your breath for as long as is tolerable
-Fright (hard to accomplish as this technique is most successful when the hiccuping person is not expecting to be frightened)
-Noxious odors (inhaling ammonia)

Some of the newer cures for hiccups that have yet to take their place in hiccup folklore include:
-smoking or consuming marijuana
-medications such as anti-psychotics, anticonvulsants, and antidepressants ( a common treatment for hospital patients who develop hiccups after gastrointestinal surgeries is the antipsychotic Thorazine)

Last but not least, the most extreme cure for hiccups is saved for only the most debilitating cases of hiccups:
An implantable breathing pacemaker cured 5 individuals who had suffered from incurable hiccups for up to 13 years. This breathing pacemaker is actually quite a breakthrough as the suicide rate in individuals who have unrelenting hiccups is quite high.

There are a variety of ways to get rid of hiccups. Often one technique seems to work at one time and does nothing the next. Keep this list of techniques for getting rid of hiccups in the back of your head and you’ll find that one of them has to work!

Fishman, M. Overview of Hiccups. UpToDate. 2007.


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