Hiccups are caused by a sudden and involuntary contraction of the diaphragm. Usually, the diaphragm contracts slowly and steadily, filling the lungs with air. In hiccups, the contraction is sudden and air is sucked into the lungs rapidly. The throat closes up and the flow of air to the lungs abruptly stops.
The typical sound of hiccups is caused by the sudden closure of vocal cords. The actual reason for hiccups is not known.
Hiccups may be triggered by an irritation to the oesophagus or stomach:
- eating too fast or too much at a time
- eating without drinking
- eating food that is too hot or cold
- carbonated drinks
- heavy use of alcohol
- gastric acid travels upwards to the oesophagus due to gastric reflux
Hiccups usually last only a few minutes and go away of their own accord. If hiccups persist you can try various home remedies:
- drink water from the opposite side of the cup
- hold your breath as long as you can
- slowly swallow a teaspoon of granulated sugar
- blow into a paper bag
- avoid alcohol and carbonated drinks, if they give you hiccups
When should you seek medical advice?
If the hiccups persist (over 2 days) or you get hiccups frequently and they disrupt your normal life, you should seek medical advice.
This Self-care instruction has been produced in collaboration with Duodecim Terveyskirjasto