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Hiccups – Causes & How to Cure them

This post provides a thorough understanding of hiccups: what they are, how to get rid of them, what causes them, who gets hiccups, and other things you need to know about hiccups if they’re bothering you.

Sometimes hiccups can be funny. It makes other people laugh to see someone with hiccups. But that is only if the hiccups are not painful or hurting.

We have included our secret for stopping hiccups. You may want to try that yourself.

It works for us. See if it is something you want to try too. It’s our hiccup stopper super-secret.

What is a Hiccup?

It catches you in the most unexpected moments and it can stop you no matter what you are doing. These are just some of the things that describe what a hiccup can do.

So many people experience this phenomenon, but hardly anyone knows what it is exactly.

The question now is: what is a hiccup?

1 – Synchronous Diaphragmatic Flutter

The term ‘hiccups’ is often used in everyday language, but in the medical field, it is also referred to as ‘synchronous diaphragmatic flutter’ or SDF.

SDF is described as the sudden and involuntary contraction of the diaphragm that occurs in time with a contraction of the larynx or the voice box.

This simultaneous contraction of the diaphragm and the voice box causes the glottis to shut tight, blocking the intake of air. This is why hiccups can be very irritating and in some cases, very uncomfortable as well.

2 – Hiccoughs

In quite an amusing note, hiccups can also be referred to as ‘hiccoughs’, and although this seems to be a result of mistaken hearing, the term is actually accepted.

Hiccoughs may be confusing though, as hiccups are nowhere near what coughs are. Coughing involves the release of irritants or foreign particles through forced exhalation.

Although the exhalation starts with a closed glottis, coughs are completed with a forceful release of air through an open glottis. With hiccups, the glottis is closed from start to finish.

3 – Hiccups

The term hiccough may lead to an erroneous interpretation that is connected to the common cough. In reality however, both the terms ‘hiccup’ and ‘hiccough’ are actually derived from the sound that the body produces alongside the occurrence.

When the diaphragm contracts, there is a fraction of a second before the vocal chords also follow suite. This contraction of the vocal chords results in the ‘hic’ sound that hiccups are known for.

Also common is the sound ‘hiccup’ or even ‘hiccough’, thus the name.

4 – Origins

A lot of what people think they know about a hiccup is not really that certain for them. In the same way, speculation about its origins or why it occurs also exist.

There are two main hypotheses as to why humans develop the need to hiccup, and both of them are plausible in their own sense.

One hypothesis tells of an evolutionary remnant of amphibian respiration. An amphibian breathes through its gills in a process very similar to how a mammal hiccups.

It is said that during the human fetal stages, the pathways connected with hiccupping are developed prior to the pathways required for lung ventilation. This has led researchers to believe that hiccupping is thus a precursor for the normal breathing process.

As the fetus develops, the lungs also form and eventually the need for the hiccupping pathways dissipate. The hiccupping that occurs in normal life is now considered to be a mere remnant of a human’s evolutionary past. 

There is also a more recent hypothesis that explains hiccupping as a means of clearing air from the stomach. Mammals such as humans rely on their mother’s milk for early sustenance.

To acquire milk, the mammal baby would suck on the mother’s breast. Reflexes have developed to allow suckling milk to be done simultaneously with breathing so that the baby would be able to breathe while it feeds.

Concurrently, this also causes a situation where air bubbles are trapped in the baby’s stomach. In an attempt to release the air bubbles to give way to more milk, the body resorts to a reflex that is said to trigger hiccups.

Babies are said to hiccup whenever they are burped, supporting this hypothesis.

5 – Common Occurrence

Hiccups are very common and they occur equally often among men and women. While there seems to be no purpose for these hiccups, they also do not pose any threats or problems unless they occur for long periods of time.

Now that you know more about what a hiccup is there is no need to be worried about them. 

Read on to learn more about the causes and cures for hiccups. It is no fun if hiccups last too long.

Who Usually Gets Hiccups?

Hiccups are a natural human reflex that can happen to anyone, at any time and in any place. There is no preference when it comes to who gets hiccups.

While the frequency in which it happens is equal between men and women, hiccups that continue on persistently seem to be more prevalent in males than in females.

It is also true that infants are more prone to hiccupping than an adult person, but persistent hiccups actually occur more commonly in adults.

Why is this so?

What makes a person hiccup and what are the factors surrounding this phenomenon? Is there a way for you to avoid having hiccups?

1 – Understanding Hiccups

Before getting into who gets hiccups and why, it would first be helpful to understand what hiccups are. A hiccup occurs when a contraction of the diaphragm is immediately followed by a contraction of the vocal chords or the voice box.

This results to an interruption of the inhalation process, making your throat voice out the ‘hiccup’ sound. Although scientists have discovered what happens when a person hiccups, there is still no definite finding as to why it actually occurs.

It appears that the hiccup reflex has no relevant purpose, but neither does it have any negative effects. The worst thing about hiccups is that they can be very irritating and troublesome especially if you need to talk.

At the same time, they can also be quite amusing especially if it is happening to other people.

2 – Who Gets Hiccups and Why?

The fact that there is no real reason for why a hiccup occurs makes it very difficult to pinpoint why it actually happens. It is because of this that it is hard to say who actually gets affected by this reflex the most.

True enough, it seems that all people get hiccups at some point or even at multiple points in their lives. There are, however, some factors which have been associated with hiccupping.

It is said that these could be reasons why a person actually gets hiccups.

  • Eating too fast.
  • Swallowing too much air.
  • Stress or emotional excitement.
  • Intake of too much alcohol.
  • Excessive smoking.
  • Drinking carbonated drinks.
  • Eating very spicy food.
  • Taking in food of very different temperatures, such as eating hot soup and then licking on a popsicle stick.
  • Too much laughing.

3 – Quick Fix for Hiccups

Hiccups happen to everyone around the world. As sudden as they come, they also often go away just as suddenly.

One round of hiccups will normally just last for a minute or so, but some people experience a prolonged round of hiccups which can last for hours.

While there is much controversy as to what the best way is to get rid of hiccups, hiccups pretty much go away on their own. Even if left alone, hiccups will naturally just go away a few moments after they started.

4 – Persistent Hiccups

Short-term hiccups are the type of hiccups that last only for a while. This is also the type that happens to mostly everybody.

There is however a type of hiccup that is more serious and severe and it is known as persistent or intractable hiccups. Persistent or intractable hiccups are those that last for longer than two days.

Some cases of intractable hiccups leave a person hiccupping throughout the episode, while other cases have a person simply experiencing hiccups very often over a period of days or even months.

In 2007, one teenager by the name of Jennifer Mee was said to have been hiccupping around 50 times every minute for at least five weeks. Another guy, a Briton, was estimated to hiccup at least 10 million times in a prolonged period of 27 months. On record however, the longest ever bout of persistent hiccups was with Charles Osborne who hiccupped an estimated 430 million times in a period of 68 years. Those are stories that probably need to be verified.

Anyone can be someone who gets hiccups at some point. As long as it doesn’t pose any problems or dangers, people can just leave it be until it goes away.

What Causes Hiccups?

Hiccups catch people in the most unexpected moments.

It may be while you are in the middle of talking, or perhaps when you are eating. At other times, hiccups happen when you are drinking, laughing, or even when you are doing nothing.

Some say that hiccups are caused by hectic environments that bring anxiety and stress, but there are times when hiccups happen for no reason at all.

Although mostly harmless, hiccups can be uncomfortable and can even cause embarrassment. If persisting for too long, hiccups can also be a sign of a more serious condition.

But what causes hiccups exactly?

1 – Irritated Diaphragm

A hiccup is said to take place when spasms occur in the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the bone-shaped sheet of muscles that is located just below the lungs.

It plays an essential role in the breathing process. When we breathe, the diaphragm pulls down to help the lungs take in air. The diaphragm soon relaxes and this releases the air in an action we know as exhaling.

When the diaphragm is irritated however, it pulls down quite suddenly in a jerky fashion. This then causes the vocal chords to close, resulting in a ‘hic’ or ‘hiccup’ sound, or what we refer to as a hiccup.

2 – Common Causes of Hiccups

An irritated diaphragm is what causes hiccups most of the time. In other cases, an irritated stomach can cause hiccups as well because of its closeness to the diaphragm.

This is why most known causes of hiccups have something to do with the way people eat or the food and drinks that a person takes in. Here is a list of some of the common causes of hiccups.

  • Inhaling too quickly.
  • Inhaling too much air.
  • Swallowing too fast.
  • Eating too quickly.
  • Drinking too much alcohol.
  • Taking in too many carbonated or fizzy drinks.
  • Eating very spicy food.
  • Eating foods that are too hot or too cold.

Although not an irritation of the diaphragm or the stomach, there are also cases when simple stress or excitement is enough to cause hiccups.

A person can also experience hiccups if he or she is in a very emotional situation or even when there is a sudden change in temperature. These causes of hiccups point out that disturbances along the nerve pathways can also result in the unexpected reflex.

In a similar manner, this also provides an explanation as to why hiccups can sometimes be scared away or halted with a sudden shock to the nerves.

3 – Medications

Aside from the natural causes of hiccups, there are also some forms of medications that are said to increase the likelihood of hiccups. Some of these medications are as follows:

  • Opiates.
  • Anesthesia.
  • Barbiturates.
  • Mythyldopa.
  • Benzodiazepines.

People who suffer from certain medical conditions are more prone to hiccups. These are:

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD
    This impedes the bowel movements which in turn cause irritation to the stomach.

  • GERD or Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease
    An irritated esophagus has also been linked to the occurrence of hiccups.

  • Pneumonia
    Respiratory conditions affect a person’s breathing which may lead to more hiccups. Other similar conditions are asthma and pleurisy.

  • Stroke
    A person with conditions that affects the central nervous system is also more prone to hiccups. Other conditions include a brain tumor and traumatic brain injuries.

The cause hiccups can be a variety of things, most of which are factors that we can control. You can simply prevent the occurrence of hiccups by staying away from the things that are likely to most trigger it.

Food and Drinks – The Causes

A hiccup is caused by a spasm of the diaphragm that is immediately followed by a contraction of the vocal chords. It can last for just a few minutes before it stops entirely on its own, or it can be persistent and last for longer than two days.

There are also many cures that have been developed to stop hiccups. Some of these include simple home remedies and quick fixes, while others require medication and even surgeries in the most serious of cases.

Many things have been written about hiccups, but even with its prevalence as a natural human reflex, it seems that experts all over the world are still quite unsure of what exactly it is that causes hiccups.

Some point to food and drinks as the cause, and this is what you are going to learn about in the following paragraphs.

The exact causes of hiccups are unknown, but there are many speculations as to why they occur.

Some of the better known of these speculations have to do with foods and drinks that a person consumes. The simple explanation for this is the fact that the diaphragm is located just above the stomach.

This means that if the stomach is irritated, it could in turn cause irritation to the diaphragm ultimately leading to hiccups. Of course, the foods and drinks that are said to cause hiccups are those that cause irritation in the stomach.

1 – Spicy Foods

Of all the types of food that are said to cause hiccups, spicy foods are those that are on top of the list.

Foods such as hot chilies and black pepper cause a burning sensation in the mouth. This is because spicy foods often contain chemicals like capsacin and capsicosin that heat-up the mouth and the rest of the food pipe.

The burning sensation causes a disruption in the normal processes of the lungs and the diaphragm. Ultimately, the breathing process is altered. This is why eating hot foods causes some people to inhale more than they normally would.

As a response to this change, hiccups are generated by the body in an attempt to bring back normalcy. Once the irritation is cleared, the hiccups also tend to stop because the body processes are regulated once again.

If you ever experience hiccups after eating spicy foods, simply wash it down with water, or better yet milk to soothe the food passageway.

2 – Hot and Cold Foods

Spicy foods are not the only hot foods that can cause hiccups. There are many who say that hiccups can also be caused by eating hot foods, especially if they are accompanied by cold drinks or any other item that is cold.

The extreme difference in temperatures cause irritation much like the way spicy food does. If you eat hot soup and follow this with an ice-cold drink or even an ice cream, there is a greater likelihood that you will experience hiccups soon enough.

3 – Fizzy Drinks

Trying to look for the foods that cause hiccups can be as simple as trying to understand what types of food cause irritation to the stomach and the diaphragm.

Aside from foods, drinks can also irritate the organs and muscles of the body. Fizzy drinks in particular have been well-associated with the occurrence of hiccups.

This includes alcoholic drinks, bubbly drinks, and even carbonated drinks such as soda. The extra air contained in these drinks not only irritates the diaphragm and the stomach, but also affects the breathing pattern of the body, thus potentially leading to hiccups.

4 – Quick Eating

While there are many possible contributing food and drinks as the cause of hiccups the way you eat food can also cause hiccups.

Particularly if you eat or drink too quickly and too much, hiccups can occur as the diaphragm, stomach, and even your breathing pattern are bothered.

You can easily avoid hiccups by paying attention to your food and drinks – the causes.

Knowing how different food items and drinks affect your body will help you consume them more cautiously and prevent hiccups altogether.

How to Cure Hiccups?

Hiccups are a natural thing. Everyone experiences them once in a while, and it seems to just happen without any reason at all.

They also appear to serve no purpose unlike other reflexes such as sneezing or coughing. However, hiccups can be quite uncomfortable especially if they happen for prolonged periods of time.

Hiccups can be funny, but they can be irritating as well especially if you need to be talking while you are experiencing them.

Although relatively harmless in nature, it is still good to know how to cure hiccups.

1 – Long-term Hiccups

A bout of hiccups will normally last just a couple of minutes before they simply go away.

There are, however, cases of prolonged or long-term hiccups that last for at least 48 hours. When a person experiences hiccups for at least two days straight, the condition is referred to as persistent hiccups.

If the hiccups last for longer than a month, it is now known as intractable hiccups. Persistent hiccups do not occur that often, and intractable hiccups are even a rarer occurrence.

When these types of hiccups occur however, they may be signs of more serious health conditions that should be addressed.

2 – Home Remedies

Before trying anything else, people with hiccups will actually first try to learn how to cure hiccups on their own or with the help of others. Many supposed quick cures for hiccups have been developed to try and stop the hiccupping process.

In some cases, people try different home remedies to find which one is more effective or which one actually works.

Some of these remedies include drinking lots of water, holding one’s breath, breathing into a paper bag, and simply scaring away the hiccup.

3 – Medical Cures

Home remedies may be well and good for short bouts of hiccups, but long-term hiccups are harder to take care of.

Obviously, a person with persistent hiccups will have already tried the home remedies that have been mentioned above. If they do not work, then this means more serious treatments should be considered.

Medication is one of the primary recommendations of health experts for those who experience long bouts of hiccups. Some of the most commonly prescribed forms of medication are chlorpromazine and metoclopramide.

Doctors would normally also recommend medications that are muscle relaxants as hiccups occur through spasms of the diaphragm and the vocal chords. Analgesics and sedatives are also commonly used to help cure hiccups.

4 – Other Procedures

Even medications may not always work effectively as a cure for hiccups. If this is the case, more invasive treatments may be tried.

One of these invasive treatments is the injection of an anesthetic to the phrenic nerve. The phrenic nerve controls the diaphragm and by stopping the nerve or getting it relaxed, hiccups may be stopped.

Surgeries are also done to get rid of persistent or intractable hiccups, particularly, phrenic nerve surgeries. One form of surgery that is performed on the phrenic nerve is known as grafting.

In this type of surgery, the phrenic nerves are aligned so that they function properly. Hiccups may be caused by damaged nerves which, if they cannot be repaired, may be replaced as needed.

Another surgery involves an implant of a rhythmic device that will control the movement of the nerves. By controlling the nerves, spasms of the diaphragm are reduced thus putting a halt to the hiccup cycle.

Of course, these forms of surgery are the very last options to consider and are only done in severe and serious cases of hiccups.

There are different ways to cure hiccups, but chances are, the hiccups you’re experiencing will go away on their own even if you don’t do anything at all.

Of course, it will be a different story if hiccups becomes persistent and uncomfortable.  It is good to know that such outcome has a very slim chance of actually happening.

How to Stop Hiccups Fast

Hiccups are a very peculiar thing. They can happen to anyone and no one knows when they will occur.

In some cases, hiccups happen in the most unexpected of times, leading one to think about what can be done to stop hiccups fast.

Maybe because of the fact that no one seems to be immune to it, people from all around the globe have been trying to develop quick, easy, and effective cures for hiccups.

1 – Using Home Remedies

It is normal for people to try and cure hiccups by themselves when it first happens.

Home remedies and even old wives’ tales have sprouted out all over the world in an attempt to solve the mystery of the cure for hiccups.

If you have experienced hiccups in the past, you are sure to have tried one or a couple of these home remedies, or at the very least, have heard of them.

  • Deep Breathing
    Hiccups have a lot to do with breathing. In fact, the hiccup is a sudden intake of breath that is abruptly followed by a closure of the vocal chords.

    This could be the reason why many people believe that deep breathing can help cure hiccups. By doing so, breathing is regulated and hopefully returned to normal.

  • Shock or Scare
    Scaring a person who has hiccups is one of the most popularly known cures for hiccups. A hiccup is said to be related to strong emotions such as having too much stress or excitement.

    When this happens, hiccups are triggered because of sudden changes in the central nervous system. It is with the same thought that many people think that hiccups can then be cured by abruptly stimulating the nervous system, ergo, by scaring.

  • Drinking Water
    Simple remedies such as drinking water in huge gulps have also long been believed to cure hiccups. By drinking water, breathing is regulated and therefore the hiccupping cycle is stopped.

2 – Did You Know?

The three home remedies mentioned above are perhaps the most popular cures known to stop hiccups fast.

Aside from these three however, countless other quick cures have been developed especially for those irritating bouts of hiccups.

  • A Spoonful of Sugar
    Mary Poppins may have had the secret to curing hiccups all along. It is said that by overloading the nerve endings through a spoonful of sugar, the hiccupping cycle may be halted.

    The spoonful of sugar should be held at the back of the tongue, not at the tip or the middle.

  • Tongue Pull
    If you want a quick cure for hiccups, try pulling on your tongue. Yanking on the tongue may cease hiccups if it affects the nerves of the diaphragm in just the right way.

  • Tickle Your Palate
    A bout of tickles may be just the thing to help stop your hiccups. Getting tickled stimulates your nerves which in turn can affect the spasms of the diaphragm that happen during the hiccup.

    If you think a simple tickle is too boring, try tickling your palate by using a cotton swab. Use a cotton swab to play with the roof of your mouth. This can lead to a truly tickling sensation and hopefully, to no more hiccups.

  • Get Pickled!
    Sour foods can perhaps provide a cure for hiccups. Try swallowing half a teaspoon of pickle juice every ten seconds until your hiccup disappears. If you don’t have pickle juice, plain old vinegar should also do the trick.

If you need to get rid of your hiccups, you may try any of these techniques and see which one works best. Most of them will work to stop hiccups fast, and you can always go for the method that is most convenient for you.


I hope the contents of this post helped you understand what hiccups are and how to get rid of them. The next step is to put the knowledge provided in this post to good use.

We included information on the most likely causes of hiccups, listing some of the better known foods and drinks that tend to cause hiccups. Take a look at that list again. See if you can avoid those in your diet if hiccups are a real bother to you.

Hiccups can make people laugh.  They are funny sometimes, but if they’re too hard or making you uncomfortable then they’re not really that funny at all. That’s when you need to understand what is causing the hiccups and how to stop them.