Hiccups

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Hiccup facts

  • A hiccup is a sudden, involuntary contraction (spasm) of the diaphragm muscle. When the muscle spasms, the vocal cords snap shut, producing the hiccup sound.
  • Common causes of hiccups include eating too quickly, eating or drinking too much, diseases that irritate the nerves that control the diaphragm, abdominal surgery, strokes or brain tumors, noxious fumes, and certain medications.
  • Most cases of hiccups resolve themselves in a short period of time and are rarely a medical emergency. See your doctor if hiccups last more than three hours, or if they disturb your eating or sleeping habits.
  • Home remedies for hiccups include: holding your breath, drinking a glass of water quickly, pulling hard on your tongue, biting on a lemon, gargling with water, and using smelling salts.
  • A physician may prescribe medications such as chlorpromazine (Thorazine), haloperidol (Haldol), and metoclopramide (Reglan) for severe, persistent hiccups.
  • Avoid overeating, eating too quickly, or drinking too much to help prevent hiccups.

What are hiccups?

A hiccup is a sudden, involuntary contraction (spasm) of the diaphragm muscle. When the muscle spasms, the vocal cords snap shut, producing the hiccup sound.

Hiccups are often rhythmic. They are usually just a temporary minor annoyance, but prolonged hiccups may signal a major medical problem. The longest recorded hiccup attack is six decades!

Women and men tend to get hiccups equally as often, but hiccups that last more than 48 hours are more common in men. Hiccups can even occur in a fetus while still in utero.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/25/2013

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