When I sneeze, I get hiccups!
July 5, 2005 3:04 AM   Subscribe

Everytime I sneeze, I get hiccups!

This has only set in in the last year or two (I'm 31).

I sneeze, then straight away I've got hiccups. Usually they don't last very long, but it's kind of frustrating. Does anyone else experience this? Any ideas what could be going on?
posted by tomble to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
All this is based on my own assumptions. I actually haven't researched the topic formally to any degree of depth.

The body works on rhythms, but breathing (due to the conscious/unconscious sharing) is a bit strange in that regard. Hiccups seem to occur when sufficient noise enters the conscious/unconscious bridge such that the system attempts to somewhat violently correct itself.

Sneezes are a source of violent noise.

My solution to hiccups has always been to breath in, as deeply as I can, and then hold my breath *not* with my chest but with my tongue -- think, cork on a bottle, with the back of the tounge holding in everything while the diaphragm stays loose, almost...hanging. This, for about three to five breaths worth, seems to create a noticable syncronization.

What's interesting is I can still feel the hiccups about to start -- but something absorbs them after the above procedure. Also interesting is that, after I discovered this method, hiccups became far rarer than they once were.

Of course, this works for me. YMMV.
posted by effugas at 3:35 AM on July 5, 2005

I get the same sort of thing, but for me, the trigger is violent coughing, not sneezing. Pretty much every time I have to cough more than 3-4 times within a few minutes, I end up with nasty hiccups. My theory is just that it's a violent disruption of the diaphragm's natural rhythm, and that triggers the hiccups.

Also, holding my breath with my tongue (like effugas) works very well for me too,
posted by kokogiak at 4:28 AM on July 5, 2005

I have a sort of similar problem to tomble, but backwards - every time I choke-cough (like if I swallow the wrong way), I sneeze a few times afterwards.

Anyway, according to this page: "Hiccups are caused by a sudden jerk in your diaphragm that causes you to breathe in air very quickly. The diaphragm is the muscle in your chest that is located just below your lungs. When you breathe in, the air travels in your mouth and nose, through your windpipe and into your lungs. When your diaphragm jerks and you suck in air very quickly, the quick air flow causes the flap at the top of your windpipe to snap shut. This quick inflow of air and the snapping shut of the flap on your windpipe is the sound of hiccups."

And, acording to this page: "Usually, sneeze begins with a deep inspiration and closed glottis, which suddenly opens after gaining pressure from contraction of the diaphragm, abdomen muscles and other muscles which compress the lungs to let out the trapped air with force through nose and mouth."

So it seems it's all related to the diaphragm; evidently the "deep inspiration" from the sneeze and contraction of the diaphragm produces the hiccups. But since it doesn't happen to everybody, and since it only recently started happening to you, the question is, are you sneezing differently these days? Are you trying to do the those dainty, no-sound sneezes? Or maybe you are suddenly gulping air afterwards, but you didn't used to?
posted by taz at 4:49 AM on July 5, 2005

This kind of crosstalk between various nerves and their functions isn't that uncommon, and by itself isn't anything to worry about. The common factors here are the vagus nerve (cranial nerve 10) and the phrenic nerve which arises from C3-5 spinal segments. The vagus controls the glottis and other pharyngeal muscles; the phrenic innervates the diaphragm.

These sorts of things are more common in folks who've had demyelinating disease like Bell palsy or Guillain-Barré syndrome, though by no means confined to them. Similarly, in some but not all individuals:
  • Light may trigger a sneeze.
  • Eating spicy food may trigger sweating in the head and nack.
  • Orgasm may cause sweating in the pelvic region.
  • Any sort of eating can cause excessive tear production (known as 'crocodile tears').
These are all examples of what I think of as simply 'crosstalk'.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:02 AM on July 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

My guess ikkyu2, is not so much that the vagus is involved but that all the positive intrathoracic pressure and violent mechanics of sneazing might directly irritate the phrenic nerve and cause spasms of the diaphragm (hiccups)..
posted by drpynchon at 7:36 AM on July 5, 2005

I'm sure this is overkill, but in case it is a recent development, you should go see a gastroenterologist just to be sure. The sudden onset of repeated hiccuping fits (and the sneeze correlation might be accidental) can be indicative of serious disease processes in the esophagus. Don't panic. The odds are slim to none that this is the case for you. But to dot the i's and cross the t's, ask your doctor.

I am always nervous when people post even simple medical questions to AskMe. The best answer to all of them is "ask your doctor."
posted by realcountrymusic at 8:38 AM on July 5, 2005

Hiccups aren't caused by peripheral phrenic nerve irritation; they require coordination between the brief diaphragmatic spasm and glottal closure, which happens where hiccups originate, in the rostral medulla.

If there are no other symptoms associated with the OP's new phenomenon I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:50 PM on July 8, 2005

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