What Are Hiccups?

Hiccups are involuntary spasms of the diaphragm, a sheet of muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen and plays an important role in breathing. The spasm causes an intake of breath that makes the vocal cords close suddenly, creating the hiccup sound.

Common Causes of Hiccups

Common causes of hiccups include eating too quickly, drinking carbonated beverages or substances with a strong flavor, sudden emotion such as surprise or excitement, smoking, and drinking alcohol. Eating too much, and consuming certain medicines, acids or alkalis can also lead to hiccups.

Home Remedies to Relieve Hiccups

Home remedies can be effective in relieving hiccups. These include:

  • Drink a glass of water quickly
  • Gargle with ice-cold water
  • Drink a teaspoon of sugar
  • Press the tongue against the roof of the mouth
  • Pull the knees up to the chest, and hug them tightly
  • Hold the breath for as long as possible
  • Drink a glass of warm water with a pinch of black pepper powder

When to Seek Medical Care

People with chronic hiccups lasting for more than 48 hours, or hiccups that are accompanied by fever, chest or abdominal pain should seek medical attention.