Dr Andy Raffles
Your Child May Get Hiccups, But What Is That Strange Noise And Why Does It Happen?
Hiccups happen when your diaphragm involuntarily spasms (medically known as synchronous diaphragmatic flutter). The diaphragm is the primary muscle situated below the lungs and heart, which contracts when you breathe. When the diaphragm spasms you suck in air snapping shut your glottis (the muscle protecting the entrance to the lungs). This irritation causes the characteristic “hic” sound of the hiccup.
There is no medical explanation as to why we hiccup. Hiccups can occur once or multiple times, and mainly last a few minutes. They are generally harmless and nothing to worry about. It is thought that healthy newborns spend approximately 1% of their time hiccupping. Hiccupping usually becomes less frequent as you grow older but occurs in people of all ages.
What Are The Triggers?
A variety of things can provoke hiccups in children and knowing what they are can help you understand, identify and even prevent them in the future.
An overly exciting or stressful episode (like joining a new school)
Eating/drinking too much or too quickly whilst swallowing air
In babies, hiccups can be linked to reflux while feeding as they bring up milk or occur after crying or laughing
Drinking fizzy drinks
Chewing gum or sucking on a sweet
Eating spicy foods
A change in stomach temperature after eating/drinking something cold followed by something hot
Tips & Tricks To Ease Your Child’s Hiccups
Hiccups may be uncomfortable and affect your child’s day/play/sleep. Fortunately, there are some simple and easy at-home remedies that can help relieve a bout of hiccups. We advise you try what works best for your child, comfort them and provide them with a distraction until their hiccups ease. Hiccups should go away by themselves shortly.
Sip ice-cold water
Sip warm chamomile or peppermint tea (if your child is too young to do this for themselves, we advise you to place small warm drops of tea into your child’s mouth)
Swallow a teaspoon of sugar
Bite a slice of lemon
Put light pressure on the top of the stomach
Rub the back of the neck
Get your child to focus on their breathing. Ask them to hold their breath and count to ten to increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood.
What Else Might Be Causing Their Hiccups?
Hiccups are usually nothing to worry about, other than an annoying occurrence. There may, however, be a few different reasons as to why your child may be experiencing frequent and persistent hiccups. These can include anything from irritation of their eardrums, a sore throat, enlarged thyroids or gastroesophageal reflux. With gastroesophageal reflux, for example, your child may also complain of stomach ache and heart burn. With most of these conditions, hiccups will most likely not be the only symptom.
When Should I Call My Child’s Doctor?
Contact your child’s doctor if their hiccups do not go away and last more than 48 hours. If your child’s wellbeing and life is being affected by constant hiccups please get in touch. Our doctors will be able to help with an assessment if you have any concerns.