Long-Lasting Hiccups More Common than Thought

Everyone knows that uncomfortable, annoying gasp of air known as the hiccup. But can you imagine having hiccups indefinitely? Physicians say long-lasting hiccups are more common than we realize.

Persistent hiccups last longer than two days, while intractable hiccups last longer than a month and are typically associated with underlying medical problems. Guinness World Records recorded the longest case of hiccups at 69 years and nine months by an Iowa farmer.

About 4,000 people are hospitalized annually for hiccups, which can interfere with eating, socializing and sleeping. Triggers can include alcohol, big meals, carbonated drinks, smoking, spices, anxiety and stress.

Loyola Medicine neurologists Stasia Rouse, MD, and Matthew Wodziak, MD, published a recent report on hiccups in the journal   Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. “Hiccups can be a manifestation of other medical issues,” Wodziak says.

Physicians can treat the underlying cause, if known, as well as prescribe various medications. They’re also studying nerve blocks near the phrenic nerve, which affects breathing, and rubbing a specific part of the ear. Other potential remedies Wodziak encountered from people during his research are drinking from the opposite side of the cup, drinking upside down and having sex.