Hiccups: A-to-Z Guide from Diagnosis to Treatment to Prevention

HiccupsIntroduction to hiccups:

Many moms can remember feeling their babies hiccupping even before birth. Sometimes hiccups are seen on prenatal ultrasounds – in peaceful, healthy babies. Hiccups seem to bother parents and older children much more than they do babies.

What are they?

Hiccups are frequent, sudden contractions of the diaphragm muscle.

They can be caused by irritation or stimulation anywhere along the path from the brain, down the phrenic nerve, to the diaphragm muscle itself.

Who gets them?

Most healthy babies will get them from time to time, especially in the early months. This is entirely normal.

An episode of hiccups sometimes results from over stimulation.

They are even more common among babies with gastroesophageal reflux. They are rarely caused by other medical problems, such as pneumonia or reaction to a drug.

What are the symptoms?

The symptom is the hiccup noise and movement as the diaphragm muscle contracts forcefully. Most babies seem otherwise comfortable, unless they are interfering with a much-desired meal.

Are they contagious?

No

How long do they last?

An individual session usually lasts only minutes. The tendency to hiccup frequently usually disappears within the first year.

How are they diagnosed?

Hiccups are easily recognized, and no diagnostic tests are needed unless either they are unusually prolonged or are accompanied by other symptoms.

How are they treated?

Folklore is filled with many suggestions to help a child break a cycle of hiccups. Nothing needs to be done unless the child seems upset or the hiccups last longer than five or ten minutes.

Burping or taking a few sips of water will often break the cycle, if you want to try something. Or, you might offer your baby something to suck on.

Honey is an old remedy for hiccups that should not be given to babies in the first year.

How can they be prevented?

Generally nothing needs to be done to prevent them. Feeding when the baby is calm, and before the baby gets too hungry, may prevent some episodes of hiccups.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.