Hic­cups al­most al­ways go away on their own

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - An­thony Ko­maroff Ask Dr. K

I reg­u­larly get hic­cups. Some­times they last a long time. Is this cause for con­cern?

As an­noy­ing as hic­cups may be, they rarely sig­nal a se­ri­ous un­der­ly­ing prob­lem.

Hic­cups are caused by an ab­nor­mal re­flex of the di­aphragm and the rib mus­cles. The di­aphragm is a layer of mus­cle that sits un­der­neath your lungs and at the top of your ab­domen. It plays an im­por­tant role in breath­ing. When the di­aphragm moves down­ward into the ab­domen, it helps pull air into the lungs. When it rises up­ward, it helps ex­pel air from the lungs.

There are also mus­cles that hold the ribs to­gether. Take in a deep breath. See how your ribs moved out­ward? That was caused by the con­trac­tion of the rib mus­cles. The out­ward move­ment of the ribs also helps pull air into the lungs.

Hic­cups in­volve a sud­den con­trac­tion or spasm of the di­aphragm and the mus­cles be­tween the ribs. The spasm makes you in­hale quickly and in­vol­un­tar­ily. As air is sud­denly sucked into your lungs, the space in the throat near the vo­cal cords snaps shut. This is what pro­duces the typ­i­cal hic­cup sound.

Many every­day sit­u­a­tions can trig­ger hic­cups: • Emo­tional stress or ex­cite­ment • Stretch­ing of the stom­ach (af­ter overeat­ing, drink­ing car­bon­ated bev­er­ages or swal­low­ing air)

• Abrupt changes in tem­per­a­ture (as with drink­ing a hot bev­er­age) • Al­co­hol binge­ing • Smok­ing If your hic­cups come and go, they are most likely a re­sult of your eat­ing habits and di­ges­tive func­tion. Try to eat less, or more slowly. Also, limit your al­co­hol in­take. (Three glasses of wine greatly in­creases my like­li­hood of get­ting hic­cups.) Avoid­ing car­bon­ated bev­er­ages may also help.

If your hic­cups last longer than 48 hours, an un­der­ly­ing med­i­cal prob­lem be­comes more likely. Ex­am­ples in­clude laryn­gi­tis, an en­larged thy­roid gland, tu­mors in the neck, in­fec­tions near the di­aphragm and hia­tus her­nia. Hia­tus her­nia usu­ally oc­curs along with gas­tro-esophageal re­flux dis­ease (GERD).

Treat­ing a dis­or­der that may be trig­ger­ing hic­cups is usu­ally the first course of ac­tion. Say, for ex­am­ple, that GERD or an in­fec­tion is trig­ger­ing your hic­cups. Med­i­ca­tion treat­ment for GERD or an­tibi­otic treat­ment of the in­fec­tion may re­duce or even elim­i­nate them.

Cer­tain med­i­ca­tions may cause hic­cups, and dis­con­tin­u­ing them can be an ef­fec­tive cure. Ex­am­ples in­clude mi­da­zo­lam (a rel­a­tive of Val­ium), some types of chemo­ther­apy and the heart med­i­ca­tion digoxin.

If your hic­cups aren’t trig­gered by a med­i­cal con­di­tion and aren’t par­tic­u­larly both­er­some, there is no ur­gency to “cure” your­self. Hic­cups will al­most al­ways go away on their own. But if you are both­ered by them, the fol­low­ing strate­gies may help: • Hold­ing your breath • Breath­ing into a bag • Swal­low­ing su­gar (my rem­edy of choice) • Bit­ing on a le­mon • Gar­gling ice wa­ter • Tick­ling your hard palate with a cot­ton swab

• Drink­ing from the op­po­site side of a glass

If you still can’t find re­lief, talk to your doc­tor. Cer­tain med­i­ca­tions can help re­duce hic­cups.

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