Hypo is an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm and other muscles of the thorax, followed by the closing of the glottis and the vibration of the vocal cords, which is why the characteristic noise is produced.
This spasm is triggered by an irritation of some nerve, such as the vagus nerve or the phrenic nerve, or part of the brain that controls the respiratory muscles that can occur for various reasons such as:
- Stretching of the stomach due to excess food or soft drinks;
- Consumption of alcoholic beverages;
- Gastrointestinal diseases such as gastroesophageal reflux;
- Alterations of blood electrolytes such as lack of calcium, potassium or sodium;
- Renal insufficiency, which causes excess blood urea;
- Decreased CO2 in the bloodstream, by accelerated breathing;
- Infections such as gastroenteritis or pneumonia;
- Respiratory or abdominal inflammations such as bronchitis, esophagitis, pericarditis, cholecystitis, hepatitis or inflammatory bowel disease;
- Surgeries in the thoracic or abdominal region;
- Brain diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis or meningitis.
- Despite these possible causes, the exact reason of how these alterations produce these spasms of the diaphragm and thorax is still unknown, in some cases the cause of the hiccups may not be known.
In most cases the cause of the hiccups is not serious, but if it is persistent for more than 2 days or if it is accompanied by other symptoms that indicate diseases such as pneumonia or brain diseases, it is necessary to consult a general practitioner to investigate the cause.
Causes of the Hiccup in babies
Hiccups in the baby are very common and can even occur before birth, while still in the mother’s womb. This usually happens because your chest and diaphragm muscles are still developing, so hiccups are no cause for concern.
However, if the hiccup lasts more than 1 day or does not allow the baby to sleep or is breast-fed, it may have other causes such as infections or inflammations, so it is important to consult the pediatrician to investigate and guide the treatment that is more appropriate.
What to do in case of hiccups
Normally, hiccups resolve spontaneously in a few minutes, however, it can last up to 2 days. To stop hiccups, it is important to solve the cause, but there are some methods to make it go faster such as drinking cold water, holding your breath for a few seconds or breathing in a paper bag, stimulating the vagus nerve and increasing the CO2 levels in the blood. Take a look at these and other maneuvers on how to stop hiccups.
If the hiccups persist for more than 2 days or if it is constant and repetitive, it is recommended to seek medical attention so that some tests such as chest x-rays and blood tests are requested to investigate the possible causes of hiccups. If necessary, the doctor may prescribe a medication to treat persistent hiccups, such as Chlorpromazine, Haloperidol or Metoclopramide.