Medical Definition of Hiccough

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 12/27/2018

Hiccough: Hiccups happen when the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen, suddenly contracts. When that happens, air is taken in, and then the voice box closes shut, which is what causes the "hic" sound. There are different types of hiccups, named after how long they last:

A "regular" bout of hiccups can last up to 48 hours

"Persistent hiccups" last longer than 48 hours and up to a month

"Intractable hiccups" last longer than a month

In most cases, hiccups go away on their own with no lasting effects. But in some people, they can last a long time and lead to problems such as poor nutrition, tiredness, and reduced appetite.

Alternative terms for "hiccough" and "hiccups" include: "hickup" and "singultus".

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018