Hiccup Hiccups

What Are Hiccups?

Hiccups (or, medically, synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (SDF), or singultus) are a completely normal but involuntary reaction of the body, specifically the diaphragm. There are a wide range of hiccup causes - anything from simple stimuli, such as consuming alcohol or prolonged laughter, to more serious causes such as traumatic injury or nervous system disorders.

Regardless of the cause, the actual act of hiccupping is the involuntary contraction of your diaphragm. When hiccupping, your diaphragm contracts, which causes you to inhale suddenly and unexpectedly. Often, only one hemidiaphragm (one side of your diaphragm) is affected. In up to 80% of the time, it is the left hemidiaphragm. This same involuntary contraction (spasm) causes your gllottis - more commonly know as your vocal chords - to clamp shut. So, just as you start to inhale and pull in air, the air is blocked. This sudden inhalation and blocking of air causes you to feel that bump in your throat and produces the hiccupping sound. If you're confused - you can try it yourself! Take in a quick breath of air and, just after you start taking the breath, close off your throat. Beautifully done - You've just hiccuped!

New evidence has suggested that hiccups are actually a more complex reaction than simply this diaphragm twitch and that they also involve the mouth, tongue, and can even be responsible for a slowed heartrate. This all suggests the existence of a neuronal circuit that is responsible for controlling the hiccups. Hiccups generally occur several times (anywhere from 4-60) per minute and go away on their own in anything from a few minutes to a few hours. In one documented case, a girl hiccupped over fifty times per minute for more than five weeks and Charles Osborne, the Guinness World Records holder for the longest attack, hiccupped for 68 years!

Chronic Hiccups are a different, and potentially much more serious matter than normal hiccups. They are defined as hiccups which occur very frequently (daily or more) or that last for extended periods of time (over two days). Chronic hiccups can point to serious underlying medical issues and can potentially be dangerous if they are so frequent or intense that they disrupt eating, drinking, or sleeping. A bout of hiccups that lasts more than two days is known as protracted or persistent hiccups. A bout that lasts more than a month is known as intractable hiccups. Click here to read more about Chronic Hiccups.

The word 'hiccup' is an onomatopoeia - it was derived from the actual 'hic!' sound, followed by the release of air. The term 'Hiccough' incorrectly implies some association with coughing. The medical term for hiccups is Singultus which comes from Latin and means, roughly, 'catching one's breath while sobbing.' Men and women get hiccups approximately the same amount, though intractable hiccups are more common with males. They can happen at any age, though women experience them more during young adulthood, and are even common and frequent in babies. They occur most frequently during the first half of the menstrual cycle and hardly at all during pregnancy. They have also been found to occur more frequently during the evening hours.

Regardless of what they are, though, there is only one truly best way and, lucky you, you found it.

What Causes Hiccups? Singultus