Tuesday, November 03, 2009

What's Up with Hiccups? (Hiccoughs) A Basic Explanation for Kids . . .

Everyone gets the hiccups . . .  in fact, most babies get the hiccups before they are even born. Kids seem to get hiccups more often than adults. Maybe that is why some people believe that having the hiccups “means you are growing.”

What causes hiccups?

Do you think that hiccups are a sign that someone is thinking about you? Well, in some cultures that’s another superstition people have used to try to explain why we get hiccups.

These days we know that hiccups are actually caused by a muscle called the diaphragm (DYE-a fram). The diaphragm is a flat muscle that lays underneath our lungs and above our stomach. The diaphragm helps our lungs take in big, deep breaths.

If we eat so much that our stomach is too full, or laugh until we are out of breath, our stomach is squeezed up against the diaphragm. This squeezing can irritate the diaphragm and cause it to spasm. (A spasm is like a tiny twitching or jerking motion.) When the diaphragm twitches, little puffs of air will quickly be pushed up and out of the lungs and into the throat. When the puff of air pops through the vocal cords deep within the throat, the familiar (HIC-cup!!)  sound is produced. Every few seconds the cycle is repeated. (Hic-CUP!!)

Do you have a favorite “cure” for getting rid of the hiccups?

Most cases of hiccups only last five minutes, and they usually stop all by themselves. Hiccups can be uncomfortable, though, so most people want to get rid of them fast.

You have probably heard that that quickly drinking down a big glass of water or holding your breath for as long as possible will get rid of hiccups in a hurry.  Most of us also know that sometimes a good scare can chase away the hiccups.

There are many home remedies for curing the hiccups. Here are a few that you may not have tried:
  • Eat a spoonful of peanut butter (without bread—just peanut butter on a spoon).
  • Plug both of your ears with your fingers, then drink a glass of water through a straw.
  • Wet a tiny scrap of paper and stick it to the forehead until the hiccups go away. (This belief is common in West Texas and North Central Mexico).
  • And . . . My favorite "no fail" hiccup cure:   Place a clean washcloth or towel on top of a full glass of water, then drink the water through the washcloth. In my experience, this is hiccup cure is both very fast and always effective.

(all rights reserved, Carolyn Cooper, MPH, RN)

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