Hiccups in babies: 5 ways to make it go away
Hiccups, frequent as early as the third month of fetal life, are a physiological phenomenon in newborns and infants, but also in older children. This article will explore the causes, triggering factors, prevention methods, and remedies for hiccups in young ones, as well as when it’s time to consult a pediatrician.
The Enigma of Hiccups
Hiccups are a fascinating yet puzzling occurrence. They consist of a sudden, repeated, and involuntary contraction of the diaphragm muscle due to the stimulation of certain nerves, such as the phrenic or vagus nerve, or the central nervous system. This contraction is followed by the rapid closure of the glottis and vocal cords, producing the characteristic ‘hic’ sound. Hiccups can happen numerous times a minute and persist for varying durations, sometimes even hours.
Why Do Hiccups Occur?
The exact causes of hiccups remain somewhat mysterious. However, it’s believed to be a mechanism that allows the release of excess air from the stomach. When the diaphragm contracts upwards, it creates negative pressure, enabling air in the stomach to be drawn into the esophagus and subsequently expelled through burping. This reflex could help newborns, who tend to swallow air while feeding, ingest more milk during a feed.
Triggering Factors for Hiccups
Hiccups in newborns and older children can be triggered by several situations:
- Rapid or Excessive Feeding: Overeating or drinking too quickly can lead to stomach distension and subsequently, hiccups.
- Temperature Extremes: Consuming food or liquids that are too hot or too cold can irritate the stomach lining and induce hiccups.
- Carbonated Drinks: The fizziness in carbonated drinks can stimulate the diaphragm, causing hiccups.
- Crying with Swallowed Air: Excessive crying can result in the ingestion of air, contributing to hiccups.
In adolescents, hiccups might also be provoked by the consumption of alcohol or spicy foods that irritate the stomach lining.
When to Be Concerned
While hiccups are usually harmless, there are instances when they might warrant medical attention. If hiccups persist for more than 24-48 hours or recur frequently, it’s essential to consult a pediatrician. They will need to rule out underlying issues such as gastroesophageal reflux, pericarditis, gastritis, or neurological lesions of the brain or phrenic nerve.
Preventing and Alleviating Hiccups
Preventing hiccups in newborns involves taking steps to minimize the ingestion of air. This can be achieved by ensuring feeds aren’t too long and using bottles with appropriately-sized holes to reduce air intake.
For older children, teaching them not to rush while eating and encouraging smaller bites can help prevent hiccups.
As for remedies, there are various methods, though none have proven to be universally effective:
- Lemon Drops: Administering lemon drops is a common home remedy.
- Back Patting: Gently patting the child’s back might provide relief.
- Tickling: Lightly tickling the child can sometimes work.
- Sneezing: Stimulating the nostrils to induce sneezing is another approach.
- Breath Holding: Instructing older children to hold their breath for 15 seconds or giving them a harmless fright are strategies some swear by.
However, for many cases, simply swallowing a few teaspoons of water can help calm the hiccups. This action promotes the relaxation of the diaphragm muscle without any adverse effects. In rare, severe cases, a pediatrician may prescribe specific drugs based on their diagnosis.
Hiccups in newborns and children, while generally harmless, can be a source of concern if they persist or recur frequently. Understanding the causes, triggering factors, and how to prevent and alleviate hiccups can ease parental worries. Remember, if hiccups persist for an extended period, seeking the advice of a pediatrician is always a prudent choice.
1. Are hiccups in newborns and children normal? Yes, hiccups are a common and generally harmless occurrence in both newborns and children.
2. How can I prevent my newborn from getting hiccups during feeds? To prevent hiccups, ensure that your baby doesn’t swallow excess air during feeds. Use bottles with appropriately-sized holes and try to keep feeding sessions from lasting too long.
3. What are some effective remedies for hiccups? While there are various remedies, swallowing a few teaspoons of water is often effective. Other methods include patting the back, tickling, or even inducing a sneeze.
4. When should I be concerned about my child’s hiccups? If hiccups persist for more than 24-48 hours or occur frequently, it’s advisable to consult a pediatrician to rule out any underlying medical issues.
5. Can hiccups be a sign of a more serious condition? In some cases, persistent hiccups might indicate underlying issues such as gastroesophageal reflux, gastritis, or neurological problems. Consulting a healthcare professional is important to rule out these possibilities.