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Date of last update: 10/19/2017.

Forum Name: Miscellaneous Chest Diseases

Question: Hiccups and CO2

 mn658 - Sun Mar 09, 2008 5:16 am

Hello everyone,

I have a bit of an odd question. I've been suffering from hiccups the past few days---I think
it is related to a flu or strep throat I'm recovering from. I am talking about bouts of hiccups
that go on for several hours and only seem to want to stop when I go to sleep.

So I was reading Wikipedia (dangerous thing to do, huh?) and I learned that the hiccup
reflex can be stopped in all mammals by raising levels of blood CO2. Hence the advice
to hold your breath, or drink water in some sort of contortionist or acrobatic way. I tried
these things but they didn't really work, and I know that a lot of people do suffer from hiccups
that just don't seem to want to stop.

So I tried something a bit more powerful. I know that people inhale nitrous oxide (from cream
whipper cartridges) as a recreational drug. It so happens I have some CO2 cartridges (for making
soda water). I filled a one-gallon bag with CO2 (that's about how much is in one of those
cartridges at STP, I think), stuck in a straw, and took a deep breath of the stuff. Oh, man,
that was unpleasant! The brain immediately thinks you're suffocating and starts the lungs
going like crazy (breathing air). However... as a hiccup treatment, it worked perfectly.
I was flabbergasted! I had really been suffering from these hiccups (they were giving me very
bad and unpleasant heartburn) and they just stopped immediately.

My question is...for future reference... is there any health risk in taking a single breath
of pure CO2 like that? It is so unpleasant that I don't think there's any chance at all
of asphyxiating "by mistake" the way there is with N2O or He (the brain doesn't let
you "breathe" pure CO2---it really knows it's bad stuff). But can the spike of CO2 in the blood
cause any sort of dangerous breathing (or other) disorder?
 Debbie Miller, RN - Tue Mar 18, 2008 3:05 pm

User avatar Hello,
I cannot overstress the importance of avoiding all over-the-counter and recreational inhalants. I do not mean the prescribed inhalants used for asthma or other breathing problems.

In spite of any potential "benefit," brain damage can be caused by inhalants, because the cells don't get enough oxygen. Repeated users of inhalants may lose the ability to learn new things, recognize familiar things or may have a hard time following simple conversations or doing basic tasks. It is hard to say exactly what the long-term results might be, but there are better ways to stop hiccups for sure.

The goal in hiccups cessation is to relax the diaphragm. After inhaling to full capacity and holding one's breath for several seconds, if they exhale very slowly and deliberately, then continue with slow, deliberate breathing in and out for several cycles, without interruption, in many cases the spastic diaphragm returns to normal. Just holding one's breath alone, followed by normal breathing usually will not do the trick. Each person may have their own "cure" for hiccups - many abound. Most often they resolve on their own with or without treatment. If not, there are medical treatments and persistent hiccups should be investigated to see if there is any related underlying digestive disorder.

Preventive measures include eating slowly, not overeating, avoid drinking alcohol or eating spicy foods, and taking an antacid, especially one containing magnesium (seems to calm the nerves in some).

I have never known of anyone dying from hiccups; but I have known of deaths as the result of inhalants that "seemed" safe enough.

Best wishes.

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