Hiccups: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Vocal cords during a hiccup

Hiccups occur when a spasm contracts the diaphragm, a large sheet of muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. The spasm causes an intake of breath that is suddenly stopped by the closure of the vocal cords (glottis). This closure causes the "hiccup" sound.

A very full stomach can cause hiccups that go away on their own. A full stomach can be caused by things like eating too much food too quickly or swallowing too much air.

Most hiccups go away on their own within a few minutes to a few hours and do not require any treatment.

Hiccups that last longer than 48 hours are called persistent hiccups. Hiccups that last longer than a month are called intractable hiccups. Both persistent and intractable hiccups may be a sign of a more serious health problem.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Try these safe and easy home remedies if your hiccups are making you uncomfortable.
    • Eat a teaspoon of sugar or honey.
    • Hold your breath and count slowly to 10.
    • Quickly drink a glass of cold water.
  • If your doctor prescribed medicine, take it as directed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.

To help prevent hiccups

  • Take steps to avoid swallowing air:
    • Eat slowly. Avoid gulping food or beverages.
    • Chew your food thoroughly before you swallow.
    • Avoid drinking through a straw.
    • Avoid chewing gum or eating hard candy.
    • Do not smoke or use other tobacco products.
    • If you wear dentures, check with a dentist to make sure they fit properly.
  • Do not eat large meals.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Avoid sudden changes in stomach temperature, such as drinking a hot beverage and then a cold beverage.
  • Avoid emotional stress or excitement.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have trouble swallowing and are unable to swallow food or fluids.
  • You have hiccups for more than 2 days.
  • You have new symptoms, such as belly pain, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, or vomiting.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have trouble swallowing but are able to swallow food and fluids.
  • Hiccups occur often and get in the way of your activities.
  • You think medicine may be causing your symptoms.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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