Help Halt Those Hics
Hiccups may not be a major health calamity, but they sure can be annoying. At certain times, and for a variety of reasons, the diaphragm muscle separating the chest cavity from the abdomen goes into a bit of a spasm, and the vocal cords snap shut, making that ''hic!'' sound. Hiccups may be triggered by indigestion, eating or drinking too fast, laughing on an empty stomach and fatigue--to name just a few culprits.
''There is a lot of opinion but very little scientific certainty
about why hiccups occur,'' says Richard Garcia, M.D., a pediatrician
and vice chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent
Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio. Given that
uncertainty, it's not surprising that the scientific community
has yielded no surefire hiccup cure. But everybody has a suggestion,
and many of them work, at least some of the time. The medical
experts modestly admit, though, that your grandmother's cure
may be as good or better than theirs. But the following recommendations
can be added to your own list of family favorites.
When to See the Doctor
Hiccups usually end within five or ten minutes, but some unfortunate people have suffered with hiccups for hours, weeks and, in very rare cases, years. ''If your child's hiccups persist beyond a day or so, consult your doctor,'' says Michael J. Pettei, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein School of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York City, and co-chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition at Schneider Children's Hospital of the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York. In rare instances, hiccups--usually accompanied by other symptoms--may be a sign of an underlying disease.
Pat baby on the back. If your baby has the hiccups, hold her upright against your shoulder and pat her back gently, suggests Dr. Garcia. ''Some babies are prone to swallow a lot of air when they nurse or drink formula,'' he says. ''And too much swallowed air distends the stomach, which can lead to hiccups. Some gentle pats may help bring up the air and stop the hiccups.''
Check the nipple. ''A baby may swallow too much air and hiccup if the hole in the nipple of the formula bottle is the wrong size,'' says Dr. Garcia. How can you tell? '' When you turn the bottle upside down you should get a drip, drip, drip of formula that gradually stops, rather than a free flow or no dripping at all,'' says Dr. Garcia. He recommends experimenting with different bottle and nipple types to see what works best for your baby.
Go ahead and feed. Don't delay feeding your baby just because he has hiccups. ''Hiccups won't interfere with your baby's eating. And eating just might make the hiccups go away,'' says Michael J. Pettei, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein School of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York City, and co-chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition at Schneider Children's Hospital of the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York.
Some Babies Get a Hiccuping Head Start
Here's a riddle. Someone is hiccuping for a half-hour on a crowded train and only one woman notices, but she is not the hiccuper. Who is hiccuping? Answer: the woman's fetus. Sound unlikely? It isn't.
In the second half of pregnancy, many babies get the hiccups several times a day, and the mother-to-be may feel her baby hic, hic, hiccuping for 20 minutes or more, notes Michael J. Pettei, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein School of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York City, and co-chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition at Schneider Children's Hospital of the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York. And the pattern may continue after the baby is born. ''For the most part, such hiccups are perfectly normal and harmless,'' says Dr. Pettei.
But don't overdo feeding either. During the first few months of life, if your baby always gets the hiccups after eating, overfeeding may be the culprit. ''Try feeding your baby smaller portions, more frequently,'' advises Robert Wyllie, M.D., head of the Section of Pediatric Gastroenterology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio. ''If you suspect that you've been overfeeding your baby, try feeding him on demand rather than on a schedule you've created, and never push him to eat more than he wants,'' Dr. Wyllie adds.
For Older Children
Break the cycle with a big drink. ''If your child can swallow long enough to miss two or three hiccups, that should break the cycle and stop the hiccuping,'' says Dr. Pettei. Dr. Garcia suggests a variation on this cure: ''Have your child take ten sips of water without stopping for air.''
Try some sugar on a spoon. ''If your child is older than two, a small amount of sugar or honey on a teaspoon may help,'' suggests Patience Williamson, R.N., a certified school nurse at the Rand Family School in Monclair, New Jersey. ''This remedy may not work every time, but the kids sure enjoy it!'' she adds.
Try the breath-holding challenge. Time how many seconds your child can hold his breath, and you can turn a breath-holding exercise into a game. ''If your child can hold his breath long enough, the increased carbon dioxide in his lungs may get rid of the hiccups,'