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Why Do We Hiccup?

Hiccups are involuntary contractions (spasms) of the diaphragm muscle, which is the muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity and plays a crucial role in breathing.

In the video below, an anatomy expert walks you through how a hiccup occurs in your body.

The exact cause of hiccups is poorly understood, but several known triggers can stimulate the diaphragm muscle and cause hiccups.

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These triggers can include:

  • Eating or drinking too quickly
  • Consuming carbonated beverages
  • Eating spicy foods
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Emotional stress or excitement
  • Swallowing air while chewing gum or smoking
  • Irritation of the nerves that control the diaphragm, such as from a tumor or an infection

How Long Do Hiccups Last?

In most cases, hiccups are short-lived and go away independently within a few minutes to a few hours. However, in some cases, hiccups can last for longer periods, such as days, weeks, or even months.

If hiccups persist for more than 48 hours, it is known as persistent hiccups, and it may indicate an underlying medical condition.

Some causes of persistent hiccups can include nerve damage, gastrointestinal disorders, central nervous system disorders, or metabolic disorders.

Hiccups - Health Library | NewYork-Presbyterian

If you are experiencing persistent hiccups,  seek medical attention to determine if there is an underlying cause.

Remedies for Hiccups

There are many home remedies and techniques that may help stop hiccups. Here are a few that you can try:

  • Hold your breath: Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can, then exhale slowly. Repeat this several times.
  • Drink water: Take small sips of water or gargle with water.
  • Swallow granulated sugar: Place a teaspoon of sugar on the back of your tongue and let it dissolve slowly.
  • Breathe into a paper bag: Breath slowly and deeply into a small paper bag for several minutes.
  • Pull your knees up to your chest: Sit down and pull your knees up to your chest, then hug them for a few minutes.
  • Press on your diaphragm: Gently press on your diaphragm (the muscle just below your ribcage) to help it relax.
  • Have someone startle you: Have someone jump out and surprise you or give you a sudden shock, as this can sometimes stop hiccups.

In a non-mainstream fashion, here are a few other odd ways other people have found to stop hiccups.

One man noticed his wife would say something hurtful to him, which stopped his hiccups.

Another person said he asked a friend to say “[Insert your first name], I command your hiccups to begone!” and has claimed his hiccups were gone!

These methods may not work for everyone.

If your hiccups persist for an extended period, or you experience other symptoms such as vomiting or chest pain, you should seek medical attention.

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