Can someone die of hiccups

What really helps against hiccups

27.02.2006

"Tie your ears with a rope and stick a pen in your mouth." What sounds like a guide for masochists is one of around 44,000 pieces of advice against hiccups that the Time Magazine wrote in August 1952 World record holder in recurrent hiccups, Jack OLeary, during his 68 year hiccup sufferer career.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the Californian Jack OLeary is the previous world record holder in continuous hiccups. When he tried to weigh a pig before slaughtering it, the hiccups started. That was in 1922 - the hiccups didn't end until 68 years later, and apparently for no reason. Osborne suffered an estimated 430 million hiccups between 1922 and 1990. Initially he hiccuped 40 times per minute, later only half as often. A year after the hiccups ended, Osbourne died at the age of 97.

What actually is a "hiccup"?
Hiccups - doctors also speak of singultus - are caused by irritation of the so-called phrenic nerve, which activates the diaphragm muscles, causing the diaphragm to contract suddenly and reflexively. The airflow of the breath is blocked by the sudden closure of the glottis. This causes the typical hiccup sound, the hiccup. Common hiccups are annoying, but mostly harmless. "You should go to the doctor if the hiccups don't stop, that is, if they last for hours," advises Kirsten Reinhard, a doctor at the AOK Federal Association in Bonn. A doctor should also be consulted if hiccups are associated with other symptoms, such as heartburn. Scientists suspect the origin of the hiccups in the development of the unborn child: Hiccups are an aborted attempt at breathing, in which the glottis close in time before the amniotic fluid of the uterus can penetrate the lungs. In this way, the respiratory muscles are trained so that they can supply the body with enough air immediately after birth.

Why do hiccups occur?
The causes of harmless hiccups are often too fast eating, very cold or hot food, too much alcohol and highly carbonated drinks. "However, there may also be a diaphragmatic hernia with gastric juice flowing back into the esophagus, which leads to irritation of the surrounding tissue, including the nerves," explains Prof. Christian Ell, chief physician in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Dr. Horst Schmidt Clinics ( HSK) in Wiesbaden. "In chronic hiccups, you should rule out that tumors are behind them in the broadest sense," says Ell. If necessary, the doctor must investigate the cause with the help of an ultrasound examination of the abdomen, a gastroscopy or a computed tomography (CT) scan. Because the cause of the hiccup can also lie in the brain, it may be necessary to measure the brain waves (EEG). Frequent, persistent hiccups can also indicate thyroid disease, changes in the lymph nodes, liver disease, or sagging of the abdominal artery wall.

How do you stop the hiccups?
There are endless tips against unpleasant hiccups. And many work too! So how about holding your nose, inhaling pepper through your nose, swallowing sugar, drinking vinegar or pulling your tongue? Being frightened, singing loudly, holding your breath, thinking of seven bald men or eating ice cream are also safe hiccup stoppers. "The most important thing with all methods is that the concentration is directed to something else," explains Dieter Schwochow, a general practitioner from Berlin. The following should also help: drink cold and warm or breathe into a bag and breathe in the exhaled air again. After all, our breathing reflex ensures that we take a deep breath again after the restricted breathing through the bag and that breathing returns to normal. In the case of chronic hiccups, on the other hand, it depends on the treatment of the underlying disease. If necessary, drugs that act on the central nervous system can also help against the hiccups.

Source: dpa