Health Watch By Steve Mullenix
Special to The North Jefferson News
Hiccups is a common condition that affects nearly everyone at some point.
Hiccups result from an involuntary contraction of the dia-phragm. The dia-phragm is a muscle that separates your chest from your abdomen, and plays a major role in breathing. When this muscle contracts suddenly, it is followed by a sudden closure of the vocal cords, which produces the characteristic “hic” sound.
The diaphragm normally works perfectly. When you inhale, it pulls down to help pull air into your lungs. When you exhale, it pushes up to help push the air out of your lungs. Hiccups are the result of the diaphragm jerking which makes you suck air into your throat suddenly.
Hiccups may result from a large meal, alcohol consumption or sudden excitement. Rarely are hiccups a sign of an underlying medical condition.
There is a documented unusual case of hiccups involving Charles Osborn. No one is quite sure what happened to Charles Osborn back in 1922. Charles suffered from no ordinary case of the hiccups; it was the world record hiccup fit, lasting for 68 years until it mysteriously stopped in 1990. It is estimated that Charles hiccuped an estimated 430 million times.
• Nerve damage or irritation: The most common cause of long-term hiccups is damage or irritation to the vagus or phrenic nerves that service the diaphragm. This could result from a hair or something else in your ear touching your eardrum, sore throat or laryngitis, a tumor, cyst, or goiter in your neck, or the common condition of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
• Central nervous system disorders: A tumor or infection of the central nervous system can damage the central nervous system and result in trauma that disrupts the normal control of the hiccup reflex. This can result from a stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, Meningitis, Encephalitis, or traumatic brain injury.
• Metabolic disorders and drugs: Conditions that can cause hiccups in this category include: Alcoholism, Anesthesia, Barbiturates, Diabetes, Electrolyte Imbalances, Kidney Failure, Steroids, and Tranquilizers.
Everyone has a home remedy for the hiccups. Some make sense and others are pure folklore. Here are some of the more common ones:
• Apple Cider Vinegar: Slowly sip a glass of warm water mixed with 1 teaspoonful of vinegar. This works best if the water is drunk from the far side of the glass.
• Baking Soda: Mix two teaspoonfuls of baking soda and two teaspoons of aromatic spirits of ammonia with four ounces of peppermint water. Dose: one tablespoonful; repeat as necessary.
• Breathing: Breathe into a small paper bag that is tightly pressed around the mouth. Or try spreading your arms like at “T” and take a very deep breath. Repeat several times, or try holding a deep breath as long as you can.
• Lemon: Mix the juice of one lemon in half a glass of water; drink; repeat if the first drink didn’t stop the hiccups
• Lemon/salt: Put a teaspoonful of salt on half a lemon and suck the juice out of the lemon
• Orange: Drink the juice of one-half an orange
• Peanut butter: Eat 1 teaspoon of peanut butter
• Pineapple juice: Take a few rapid swallows of pineapple juice — repeat hourly if necessary
• Sugar: Place a teaspoon of sugar on the tongue and wash it down with a glass of cold water. Another sugar remedy suggests swallowing it dry (this is not recommended for the diabetic patient).
• Water: Drinking water in various fashions have been an age-old cure. Here are several variations — Plug your ears and drink a glass of ice cold water, or slowly sip a cup of warm water. Sip a cup of water with honey in it.
A bout of hiccups usually resolves itself without intervention. Although many home remedies claim to shorten the duration, medical treatment is occasionally necessary in cases of chronic hiccups.
So just try to wait them out, or have some fun with the home remedies to see which one works for you.
Steve Mullenix (R.Ph) co-owns The Pharmacy in Mount Olive with his wife, Sherry Mullenix (J.D., R.N.). They can be reached at 631-1201.