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After more than 10 days of hiccups, Brazil’s president may need emergency surgery

The president has blamed an earlier assassination attempt and more recent dental surgery for the chronic hiccups

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro wears a mask to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, wearing a mask to curb the spread of COVID-19, attends the launching ceremony of the Asphalt Giants Program, at the Planalto presidential palace, in Brasilia, Brazil. Bolsonaro has been hiccuping for more than 10 days, reported the BBC.
Eraldo Peres, Associated Press

How do you cure hiccups? For Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, nothing seems to have worked. Bolsonaro has been hiccuping for more than 10 days, reported the BBC.

  • Wednesday, Bolsonaro was hospitalized and placed under observation due to his chronic hiccups, reported The Guardian.
  • Doctors suspected a possible bowel or intestine obstruction, reported CNBC.

Now, the president has been sedated and transferred to São Paulo to undergo further tests and potentially an emergency surgery, per the BBC. Here’s the latest in 66-year-old Bolsonaro’s string of health scares.

Why was Brazilian President Bolsonaro hospitalized?

Bolsonaro’s hiccups had interrupted his speech during multiple recent media appearances — in one appearance, he hiccuped 14 times during the first minute, according to The Washington Post. This difficulty speaking has fueled speculation, reported The Guardian.

  • He was hospitalized Wednesday after complaining of abdominal pain, per The Guardian.
  • Wednesday, Bolsonaro tweeted that he would be “back soon, God willing,” per BBC translation.

Why is Bolsonaro hiccupping? Did Bolsonaro’s stabbing cause the hiccups?

According to The Washington Post, “hiccups can be caused by physical and emotional changes and disruptions — stress, sore throats, cold drinks or eating too fast, for example — so pinpointing any cause for the Brazilian president’s hiccup bout isn’t possible without an examination.”

Bolsonaro first began hiccuping after oral surgery for dental implants on July 3, per The Guardian. Initially, he blamed his hiccups on the medications he’d taken for the surgery.

But then the hiccups continued.

More recently, Bolsonaro said his health issues were complications from a 2018 assassination attempt, reported The Washington Post.

  • Bolsonaro was stabbed in the intestine while campaigning in 2018, per the BBC.
  • The attack seriously wounded Bolsonaro, causing 40% blood loss and resulting in several surgeries due to further complications since the event, reported the BBC.

A specialist in Brazil told The Washington Post that Bolsonaro’s hiccups could be from the dental implants because of the potential irritation of oral and phrenic nerves. The specialist did not think that the hiccups were related to the stabbing, per The Washington Post.

How long can hiccups last?

Hiccups typically pass quickly. Cases of hiccups lasting longer than a day are “quite rare” and cases lasting more than 10 days are “very rare,” according to The Washington Post.

  • Prolonged — or chronic — hiccups can become a serious problem, especially if they interrupt sleep.
  • Extended hiccups can also indicate other serious medical problems, reported The Washington Post.