My son gets hiccups when angry

Dear Doctor,

My 3-year-old son has a bad temper and likes fighting. And when he cries, he normally develops a hiccup which lasts several minutes. What causes a child to get such tendencies and how can it be stopped? Vanessa

Dear Vanessa,

Hiccups are kind of gasping sounds that occur due to contraction of the diaphragm(muscle between chest and abdomen). It can occur at any age, even in toddlers and in-utero infants. Toddlers are more prone to develop sudden contraction of the diaphragm as their control mechanism of reflexes is not settled yet. Sudden contraction of the diaphragm leads to sudden spasm of vocal cords, gushing in of air, which leads to the familiar sounds of hiccup.

Hiccups commonly occur due to eating large meals, flatulence, swallowing air, drinking carbonated beverages, sudden changes in body or environmental temperature. Apart from these causes, it can be due excitement or emotional stress. Emotional stress seems to be the probable reason for hiccups in case of your child, when he loses his temper. Kidney and or liver failure are sinister medical disorders that cause hiccups as one of the manifestations.

As such hiccups do not pose any health risk, but do sound worrisome. Prevention lies in avoiding situations that bring about hiccups. As with your child, avoid situations that make him cry. A child usually cries if he is in pain or hungry or seeking attention. Avoid giving him many sodas.

First hand traditional treatment of hiccups consists of shock therapy. Making a sudden loud noise, light thumping of the back, are some of the tactics done traditionally. However avoid frightening the toddler. Tickling the child is yet another alternative. Sips of water or mint tea or chamomile given to the toddler are also effective in stopping the hiccups.

If these measures fail, one can try drug therapy. Drugs acting on the vomiting center in the brain, help to reduce hiccups as well. However, if the hiccups are persistent, interfere with eating, breathing, sleeping, then one should seek medical intervention straight away.