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spasmodic involuntary contraction of the diaphragm that results in uncontrolled breathing in of air; it is accompanied by a peculiar noise produced by a beginning inhalation that is suddenly checked by closure of the glottis. Hiccups have many different possible causes, such as rapid eating, irritation in the digestive or respiratory system, or irritation of the diaphragm muscle itself; they sometimes occur as a complication following some kinds of surgery or in serious diseases such as uremia and epidemic encephalitis; and they may have a purely emotional cause. The condition is serious only when it persists for a long time; hiccups usually stop after a few minutes. Called also hiccough and singultus.

Standard home remedies for hiccups include holding the breath, swallowing sugar or a bread crust, pulling the tongue forward, applications of cold to the back of the neck, simply sipping water slowly, and breathing into a paper bag. The bag has the effect of cutting off normal exchange of air with the surrounding atmosphere. The air in the bag, after a few breaths, will have an increasingly high carbon dioxide content, and so will the air in the lungs, and finally the blood. As a result, the automatic respiratory centers in the brain call for stronger and deeper breathing to get rid of the carbon dioxide. This frequently makes the contractions of the diaphragm more regular and eliminates the hiccups. (Patients should be cautioned not to use this paper bag method for longer than one minute at a time.) In extreme cases of prolonged hiccups, sedatives or antianxiety agents may be necessary.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


(hik'ŭp), The misspelling hiccough, a modern variant, is better avoided.
A diaphragmatic spasm causing a sudden inhalation that is interrupted by a spasmodic closure of the glottis, producing a noise.
Synonym(s): singultus
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Lesional localization of lateral medullary infarction presenting with hiccups (singultus).