What Causes Hiccups and How To Get Rid of Them?

Hiccuping child covering mouth. What Causes Hiccups and How To Get Rid of Them?

Hic! Hic! Hic! Those strange, chirpy sounds are hiccups. Because hiccups happen so suddenly and make the middle of your chest twitch, they are often surprising. Did you know that everyone gets hiccups? Yes, babies, children, and adults. Even fetuses can get hiccups before they are born! Although a few hiccups might feel silly, hiccups can get annoying when they stick around too long. But what causes hiccups, and how can you get rid of them?

What happens inside your body during hiccups?

diaphragm muscle spasms during hiccups

Normally, your diaphragm muscle moves down when you breathe in air. It goes back up when you breathe out air. When air goes in and out of your lungs, the vocal cord muscles in your voice box should be open.

During a hiccup, 2 things cause the sudden “hic” sound:

  • Your diaphragm muscle gets irritated and jerks down between breaths, making you suck in air.
  • Suddenly, your vocal cord muscles close to block more air from getting into your airway.
voice box open and closed vocal cords during hiccups

In this video, watch the baby’s neck and chest. Did you notice the sudden neck and chest twitching with each hiccup? That’s because the vocal cords are in the neck, and the diaphragm is at the bottom of the chest.

What causes hiccups?

A lot of different things can trigger hiccups. A common cause is swallowing air during activities like:

  • Having a fizzy drink like soda
  • Eating too fast or too much
  • Chewing gum

Since your brain controls your diaphragm muscle, hiccups can also be caused by emotions like:

  • Nervousness
  • Excitement
  • Stress
soda triggering hiccoughs
excited child eating too fast and too much causing hiccoughs

How can you get rid of hiccups?

Sometimes, it’s hard to wait for hiccups to go away, and you might want to get rid of hiccups faster. Have you heard of any tricks for making hiccups go away?

  • Holding your breath
  • Breathing into a paper bag
  • Having someone scare you…Boo!
  • Eating a teaspoon of sugar…Yummy!
  • Drinking from the “wrong” side of the cup…Weird!

SAFETY TIP: Never, ever breath into a plastic bag!
This is extremely dangerous, because the bag could block your breathing.

While these tricks might be interesting, none have been proven to stop hiccups. Waiting patiently is the surefire way to make hiccups go away!

How long can hiccups last?

digital timer

Most of the time, hiccups last for a few minutes or an hour. They usually go away on their own.

Very rarely, hiccups can last for a few days, weeks, or months.

When hiccups last longer than usual, doctors might check to see if something else is happening in the body. Sometimes, medications can help make stubborn hiccups stop.

Learn more about your amazing body!

Updated on November 28, 2023 by Betty Choi, MD

Updated on November 28, 2023 by Betty Choi, MD