From guest-blogger Dean:
If you go to hell you might come back with hiccups, assuming you return. Also if you get surgery. The following is my saga of hiccup survival. If you just want the recipe for stopping hiccups, read the last paragraph.
As Zina’s regular readers know, I recently had outpatient foot surgery. I planned with the podiatrist-surgeon to use “MAC” anesthesia, but due to some kind of minor breathing complication during the surgery, the anesthesiologist decided to switch me to general anesthesia, which required snaking a breathing tube down my throat. After the surgery as I was waking up, I had hiccups. They went away without incident. Zina took me home. That night they came back. I tried the couple hiccup-stopping tricks I knew. They didn’t work. The hiccups continued into the night. I couldn’t sleep. They got worse. I was getting desperate. I hobbled downstairs to the computer. I googled “stopping hiccups,” which produced exhaustive lists of remedies. I tried several remedies. Basically, each worked one time only, for about 5 minutes. After these several attempts I finally found one that worked well enough for me to get some sleep. It involved inflating your lungs and making alternating gulps and air-suckings.
Early the next day the hiccups came back. I called the community hospital and got my erstwhile anesthesiologist on the phone. I told him (in between my hiccups) that I had a terrible case of hiccups and asked if this could have something to do with the anesthesia. He said no unequivocally–end of conversation. A 10-second google search then reveals to me that, yes, hiccups can be a side effect of general anesthesia, though it is uncommon. I discovered that irritation of the vagus nerve, which runs down next to your esophagus and controls your diaphragm, can cause serious hiccups. On reflection I realized that my throat had been quite sore ever since the surgery, and so it made sense that my vagus nerve was as irritated as I now was at my anesthesiologist.
My hiccups were such that even when I got them to go away, if I laughed or coughed, or a butterfly flapped its wings in Asia, they came back. As Zina mentioned earlier, I could totally relate to the man featured on a Simpsons episode who has had the hiccups for 40 years and says, “*HIC* kill me *HIC* kill me *HIC* …” I was hopeful that there might be some kind of anti-hiccuping drug, but from what I read online apparently all they can do medication-wise is pump you full of anti-psychotics, strong sedatives, etc.
Dean’s Hiccup-Fu Combo Move:
After some experimentation, I came up with a remedy that worked pretty well for me, well enough to allow me to survive until my vagus nerve calmed down (about 3 days after the surgery). It’s a combination of others’ published remedies. The basis of nearly all remedies is to physically distract or counter-stimulate your body’s attention away from the hiccups. For instance, if you are asphyxiating, your brain might decide that hiccuping is not an essential function anymore, and it stops (the hiccuping). Here goes:
- Breathe in deeply, inflating your lungs.
- Close your mouth and constrict your throat (glottis) to hold your breath (I’ve never previously had a legitimate occasion to say “Shut your glottis!”)
- Each time a hiccup comes, follow it with a “sip” of air (filling your lungs even more) and a swallow of the saliva that is in your mouth. Keep holding your breath.
- As you continue doing this the hiccups should weaken and stop. If you feel your lungs really are as full as they are going to get and you can’t swallow any more, you can just hold your breath for several seconds longer. If you start to feel that panicky suffocating feeling, know that you are sending the right signal to your brain that hiccups are not necessary at this point. Don’t hold your breath so long that you pass out, however.
- If steps 1-4 are not strong enough, you can magnify the effect a bit by stretching your arms high above your head while holding your breath, which stretches out your diaphragm. This could also be done while lying on your back.
- I had to repeat these steps many times throughout the day as aggressive episodes of hiccups recurred. I generally was able to sleep without hiccups thanks to this technique.