Five-day hiccups: Man's symptom uncovers hidden illness

·News Reporter
·1-min read

An elderly man’s five-day hiccups turned out to be evidence of a serious illness.

The 73-year-old man, a diabetic from San Fernando in California, was taken to the hospital after the persistent hiccups, but his family said he had no chills or fever, according to his case in medical journal, Cureus.

But he had suffered a stroke two weeks earlier. The family said he vomited once but was otherwise fine before the hiccups started.

The man was given a Covid test which came back negative. He had a low-grade fever of 37.8 degrees.

“On clinical examination, there were decreased breath sounds and crackles noted in the basal segments of the right lower lobe,” researchers wrote.

“A tentative diagnosis of persistent hiccups secondary to aspiration pneumonia was made.”

A chest radiograph of a 73-year-old man with aspiration pneumonia.
A radiograph of the man's chest. Source: Cureus

Doctors put him on antibiotics intravenously along with other medications. They also monitored his blood pressure.

Luckily, the hiccups were all but gone 36 hours after treatment started. Researchers noted hiccups were not always signifying an underlying health issue, but they can if they were persistent such as longer than 48 hours.

They also noted the elderly man’s case was notable as the hiccups were the only symptom of his aspiration pneumonia.

“Patients with aspiration pneumonia typically present with dyspnea, cough, fever, hypoxemia, and radiological evidence of pulmonary infiltrates,” they wrote.

“Persistent hiccups manifesting as the sole symptom of aspiration pneumonia is a rare occurrence. Approximately 10 cases have been reported in the last 15 years.”

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