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What Causes Hiccups?

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What Causes Hiccups?

Chances are that we have all had hiccups before. They usually start at inconvenient times and in modern days we have heard every trick in the book to get rid of them. You have probably had someone tell you to drink water, hold your breath or have someone scare the hiccups out of you. The question is, does any of this work?

The Cleveland Clinic has answers to these questions about hiccups.

Where do hiccups come from and what causes them?

Hiccups are repeated spasms of your diaphragm paired with a ‘hic’ sound from your vocal cords closing. Your diaphragm is a muscle under your ribcage, separating your chest and stomach area. This muscle is an important part of the breathing process. It moves downward when you breathe in and upward when you breathe out.

Two things happen when you hiccup:

  • Your diaphragm pulls down between breaths, making you suck in air.

  • The glottis (space between the vocal cords) closes to stop more air from coming in.

These actions make the ‘hic’ sound of the hiccup. The process of the hiccup happens very quickly and you’ll usually return to normal within minutes to a couple of hours without treatment.

Hiccups can happen to anyone, at any age. They are more common for men and they can last longer.

So what causes the hiccups? Well, it’s not clear why people get the hiccups. There are several reasons hiccups might happen, but they are not scientifically proven reasons.

  • Low level of carbon dioxide in the blood

  • Irritated nerves

  • Eating or drinking too quickly

  • Carbonated beverages

  • Eating too much

  • Stress

  • Over stretching your neck

  • Medication

  • Toxic fumes

  • Chemotherapy

  • Cold or hot drinks

  • Anesthesia

Hiccups usually go away on their own in a short period of time, however if they persist for a few days, consult your healthcare provider. There are long lasting hiccups that last for months or longer but those cases are very rare. Sometimes hiccups can be a part of a larger underlying medical condition.

Because the exact cause of hiccups is uncertain, some remedies may or may not work. These home treatments will not hurt you, so there is typically no harm in trying them. Home treatments include:

  • Drinking water quickly

  • Gently pulling on your tongue

  • Gently rubbing your eyeballs

  • Gargling water

  • Holding your breath

  • Breathing into a paper bag (do not use a plastic bag)

Our Family Clinic in Hulett provides continuing and comprehensive health care for individuals and families. Family Medicine, or Primary Care providers, serve all people of all ages. Our team helps patients establish a medical home to monitor your health and manage chronic illnesses and conditions. In addition to full primary care services, we also provide women’s health services. Dr. Gaddiel Rios has a passion for treating, caring and connecting with the community. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Rios, call 307-688-2235.


“Hiccups: Causes & Treatment.” Cleveland Clinic,