Truly harmless? If the hiccups last for a long time, there could be a serious illness behind it. | Image: nicoletaionescu / AdobeStock
There are truly worse disorders than acute hiccups. In most cases, the hiccup, although annoying, is harmless and temporary. However, if it lasts for a longer period of time, a serious disease could be behind it. On today's Hiccup Day, we take a look at what the hiccup is all about.
A world record
It seems fitting that Hiccup Day originated in the USA of all places. After all, this is where the longest hiccup was recorded: The American Charles Osborne (1894 – 1991) suffered from chronic hiccups for 68 years and thus made it into the Guinness Book of Records.
Good to know: Hiccup day
In the USA, a special day of honor has even been proclaimed for this strange bodily phenomenon: National Hiccup Day, which is celebrated every year on the 16th of December. March takes place. The day of action was launched in 2003
Typical hiccup triggers
Generally, hiccups – medically referred to as singultus – last no more than a few minutes. And mostly it is a benign phenomenon. Often the causes can also be identified.
For example, one ate too hastily or too abundantly. Sometimes a too cold or carbonated drink is to blame. Alcohol in excess can also trigger the hiccups. Psychological factors such as anxiety and excitement can also have a favorable effect.
Acute diaphragmatic spasm
The hiccups occur when the diaphragm suddenly tightens up. This is mediated by the activity of the phrenic nerve. The glottis in the larynx then closes as a reflex. The inhaled air now bounces against the closed glottis, creating the familiar Hiccup sound.
Hiccups train the brain
The first hiccups are experienced in the womb. It also occurs frequently in newborns. Premature babies spend about 15 minutes a day hiccupping. Hiccups are thought to play a role in brain development and learning to breathe. However, the function of hiccups in adulthood has not yet been explained.
Various home remedies
People who are plagued by hiccups in company usually get a lot of well-intentioned advice. These are mainly measures that affect breathing:
– startle – hold your breath – laugh – drink something cold or vinegar – breathe into a paper bag – pull your knees tight to your chest
Chronic singultus – a possible sign of illness
As a rule, acute hiccups disappear by themselves. In rare cases, however, it persists. If this happens for more than 48 hours, it is called chronic singultus. This condition is very stressful. May indicate a possible underlying disease. These include, in particular, tumors or inflammation of the upper gastrointestinal tract, most commonly reflux disease. But diabetes or other metabolic diseases as well as stroke, meningitis and other neurological diseases can also be associated with persistent hiccups.
In some cases, psychological causes are behind it. Medications such as barbiturates, benzodiazepines, dexamethasone, and methyldopa can also cause chronic hiccups.
In the case of chronic singultus, a visit to the doctor is therefore always indicated. If there is a disorder of the upper digestive tract, proton pump inhibitors and prokinetics can be prescribed. In addition, the muscle relaxant Baclofen, the anticonvulsant Gabapentin or the neuroleptic Haloperidol are used for chronic hiccups.