How Can Death Be Caused by Hiccups?

Published March 5, 2020
Woman with hiccups

While hiccups themselves can not directly cause death, they may indicate a more serious, underlying medical condition. If hiccups last longer than two days or are causing any sort of discomfort, seek medical attention immediately.

Understanding Persistent Hiccups

Persistent hiccups can be a nuisance and eventually lead to some discomfort. This can create some stress as hiccups can interfere with your ability to sleep soundly, eat peacefully, and live your life without recurring interruptions. Persistent hiccups can also point to a few underlying medical issues that should be taken seriously.

Medical Conditions

On a case study basis, persisting hiccups, have been linked to underlying medical conditions such as myocardial infarction and pulmonary embolism.

  • Pulmonary embolism, one of the leading causes of death, often times presents without specific symptoms. This leads to the majority of diagnoses being made after the individual has passed away.
  • Similar to pulmonary embolism, an individual may present without any other symptoms besides persistent hiccups and eventually be diagnosed with myocardial infarction.

So, if you experience hiccups that are causing discomfort and haven't gone away in two days, it's best to reach out to your doctor. Be sure that they run several tests and don't dismiss your complaint, as there could be a serious issue associated with your hiccups.

Hiccups and Having a Stroke

Hiccups accompanied with tingling, chest pain, and blurred vision can be a sign of a stroke. While many people wouldn't necessarily lump hiccups in as a symptom of a stroke, it's becoming an important sign to look out for, especially when the hiccups don't seem to go away and are coupled with other symptoms.

Hiccups in Your Sleep

During sleep your body is typically able to manage hiccups, and you will most likely not experience them during sleep. In some cases, hiccups can occur during all sleep stages, and do not tend to interfere with sleep. Hiccups while sleeping will likely not be the cause of death, but rather a symptom of a larger issue.

Long Term Hiccups and Triggers

Long-term hiccups can be caused by a variety of of underlying conditions and illnesses. If you are experiencing long term hiccups and notice some other uncomfortable symptoms, it's best to speak with a doctor right away. Some of these conditions or illnesses may include:

  • A tumor
  • Meningitis
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Alcoholism
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease

Hiccup Myths

There are several myths around hiccups, if they're linked to death, and where they come from. One case noted that in the 1900s, a family member presented with hiccups for a prolonged period before passing away; however, he also experienced other fatal medical symptoms. Back in the 1500s, hiccups were thought to be caused by elves and the descriptions used to describe those who had hiccups were a bit morbid. Another myth is that you get hiccups when someone is thinking of you and to rid yourself of them you must name the person who misses you.

Facts About Hiccups

Hiccups are small diaphragm spasms. They can be caused by food and drink intake, stress, reflux, certain fumes, certain medications, swallowing too much air at once, and underlying medical conditions. For the majority of people hiccups will only last a few minutes before subsiding on their own. While some home remedies may work, persistent hiccups will likely require a call to your doctor. Some home remedies include drinking water, having someone startle you, holding your breath, and laying upside down.

When to Seek Help

If you are experiencing hiccups for longer than two days, it's best to reach out to a medical professional. Anecdotally, there are several cases where hiccups were the only presenting symptom to serious underlying medical conditions. More research is being compiled to build the case that chronic hiccups can be a serious symptom that merits immediate medical attention and additional tests to rule out fatal conditions.

The Connection Between Hiccups and Death

Although hiccups can't cause death, they can be a direct sign of a serious and potentially fatal medical condition. If your hiccups are causing severe discomfort or you've been hiccuping for more than a couple days, it's a good idea to reach out to your doctor.

How Can Death Be Caused by Hiccups?