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|Quick reference medical handouts used
by Pediatric offices
Hiccups in Babies and Children
Everyone has had them
Everyone has had them. Hiccups occur at
funny times and are funny to everyone but
the hiccupper! Sometimes it is being
tickled, and other times it is drinking too
fast, but all have the same
outcome...hiccups. So what causes hiccups
and what can be done about them?
What Are Hiccups?
a riddle. Someone is hiccuping for a half-hour
on a crowded
only one woman notices, but she is not the
hiccuper. Who is
Answer: the woman's fetus. Sound unlikely? It
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, And the pattern may
continue after the baby is born. For the most
are perfectly normal and harmless.
The term for hiccups comes from Latin. It means sobbing while catching your breath. Hiccups occur due to an involuntary spasm of the muscles that help us to breath, including the
diaphragm (the large muscle that divides the chest from the abdomen) and the muscles around the ribs. These spasms cause the muscles in the throat to spasm, producing the usual sound. Hiccups may occur up to sixty times a minute, though for most people the frequency is much lower. Hiccups are a common and usually benign problem that will affect everyone at some point in time.
What Can Cause Hiccups?
There are many harmless causes of hiccups. In babies, taking in too much air while feeding is often the cause. In older children, common reasons include over-eating (which causes the stomach to become distended), and drinking too much soda (the carbonation is the cause here). Sudden excitement and stress are also thought to be possible causes. Another common cause of hiccups is gastroesophageal disease (GERD), which occurs when acid leaves the stomach and rolls up into the esophagus (the food tube). Your doctor can determine
if GERD is causing your child’s hiccups. Rare, but more concerning, causes include medication side effects, medication overdoses, infections, and multiple sclerosis.
When Should I be Concerned About My Child’s Hiccups?
If your child complains of stomach pain or coughs up
blood you should notify your child’s doctor. If the hiccups began after starting a medication or last for more than three hours, you should also notify the doctor.
How Can I Stop My Child’s Hiccups?
an older child with hiccups
is eating, get the child to
spit the food out and wait
until the hiccups are gone
before eating again.
First do nothing. Hiccups will stop by themselves and the home remedies that people try to stop hiccups often coincide with the hiccups stopping on their own. However, if you would like to try something, the
following home treatments have been reported to be of help:
1. Drink a glass of water (but not from the opposite rim!);
2. Have your child hold his/her breath;
3. Have your child suck on a lemon wedge;
4. Put some sugar or peanut butter (but make sure there are no peanut allergies) on your child’s tongue; and
5. Have your child sneeze. Although nobody knows for sure why any of these treatments seem to work, they are probably
related to influence on the vagal nerve, which is the nerve that
6. Have someone give the hiccuping child a fright.
If hiccups last longer than a few hours or have a
medical cause, your child’s doctor may recommend specific treatments to
target the underlying problem.
For GERD, the treatment is usually acid suppressants in
combination with dietary changes. Medications are sometimes used for
chronic hiccups and include muscle relaxants, and anti-seizure drugs. If
neither of these works, acupuncture or hypnosis may be tried.
Finally, if all else fails, your child’s doctor may
suggest surgery to cut part of the vagal nerve.
The bottom line is that hiccups are a common problem in
babies and children, and in the vast majority of cases are not harmful.
As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as
medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your childs pediatrician.
Please read our full disclaimer.