Hiccups often occur suddenly, and people may find that they quickly become bothersome. Although hiccups typically resolve in time, people may try a variety of unusual and creative ways to get rid of them.

The medical term for hiccups is singultus. In terms of physiology, a hiccup occurs when the diaphragm and intercostal muscles suddenly contract involuntarily. The larynx, or voice box, contracts at the same time, and the vocal folds close, effectively blocking the flow of air.

This article discusses the causes of hiccups and how to treat and prevent them. It also looks at chronic hiccups and hiccups in infants and answers some frequently asked questions.

Fast facts on hiccups:

  • Eating or drinking too quickly often causes hiccups.
  • They usually resolve on their own with no medical intervention.
  • Hiccups affect everyone, from babies to older adults.

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The exact cause of hiccups is not always known. However, any condition that irritates the diaphragmatic nerves can potentially lead to hiccups. Many other factors can also play a role.

According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, possible triggers of hiccups include:

  • eating spicy foods
  • drinking hot liquids
  • eating a large meal
  • drinking carbonated beverages
  • eating too fast
  • taking certain medications

Another possible trigger is experiencing strong emotions or stress.

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In the vast majority of cases, hiccups go away on their own within a few minutes. Treating any underlying conditions that cause hiccups may help reduce their frequency.

Below are some tips and home remedies for dealing with a bout of hiccups.

Breathing and posture

Regardless of where they are when hiccups begin, people can try:

  • breathing in and holding the breath for about 10 seconds, then inhaling two more times before exhaling
  • breathing into a paper bag but taking care not to cover the head with the bag
  • bringing the knees to the chest and hugging them
  • compressing the chest gently by leaning forward

Eating and drinking

Several suggested techniques for stopping hiccups involve food and drink. They include:

  • gargling with iced water
  • placing a couple of drops of vinegar in the mouth
  • placing some granulated sugar on the tongue and then swallowing it
  • sipping very cold water slowly
  • biting a slice of lemon

Pressure points

Other techniques that might work for some people include:

If hiccups are persistent or severe and other treatments have proven ineffective, a doctor may prescribe medication. They may consider this the best option if a person is:

  • losing weight as a result of being unable to eat properly
  • sleeping abnormally or experiencing insomnia
  • experiencing symptoms of depression

The doctor may recommend different medications, including:

  • baclofen (Lioresal), a muscle relaxant
  • chlorpromazine (Largactil), an antipsychotic medication
  • gabapentin (Neurontin), which doctors initially used to treat epilepsy
  • haloperidol (Haldol), an antipsychotic medication
  • metoclopramide (Reglan), a medication that can also treat nausea

Certain triggers cause most cases of hiccups. People may be able to reduce the likelihood of hiccups occurring by avoiding the following:

  • eating or drinking too quickly
  • drinking alcohol or carbonated beverages
  • eating spicy foods
  • smoking
  • suddenly changing the temperature in the stomach by eating or drinking something very cold after something very hot, or vice versa
  • chewing gum

Hiccups sometimes occur due to an underlying medical condition, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In such cases, a person may be able to prevent hiccups by treating the condition that causes them.

Babies often get hiccups, which are a standard part of their development and do not typically disturb them. However, hiccups can sometimes disrupt feeding and sleeping.

If hiccups occur during a feeding, it may be possible to get rid of them by:

Frequent hiccups in a baby could be a sign of a medical condition. Parents or caregivers should speak with a doctor if hiccups occur often or upset the baby.

According to the Guinness World Records, Charles Osborne is the person who has had the longest attack of hiccups. He hiccupped continuously for 68 years, from 1922 to 1990.

However, doctors define hiccups that last more than 48 hours as chronic or persistent. Hiccups are intractable if they remain present for more than a month.

Both chronic and intractable hiccups may have an adverse effect on a person’s quality of life. Chronic hiccups can lead to exhaustion, insomnia, and, if they prevent a person from eating, weight loss.

Chronic hiccups can have a wide variety of causes, including:

In most cases, hiccups resolve on their own within a short period. However, they may sometimes persist and affect sleep, eating, or other aspects of everyday life.

Hiccups rarely require medical treatment, but a doctor may prescribe medications if they are severe, persistent, and unresponsive to other treatments.

Below, we answer some of the most common questions about hiccups.

How do you get rid of hiccups instantly?

There is no guaranteed way to get rid of hiccups instantly.

However, the following methods may help:

  • breathing into a paper bag
  • holding the breath
  • slowly drinking or sipping cold water
  • biting a slice of lemon
  • tasting a drop of vinegar
  • swallowing granulated sugar

What is the main cause of hiccups?

Various triggers can cause hiccups. The most common cause is bloating of the stomach due to drinking a carbonated drink or eating a large meal.

Is hiccupping dangerous?

Hiccupping in itself is not dangerous.

However, if hiccups become chronic, they may affect a person’s quality of life.

Are frequent hiccups a sign of something serious?

In some cases, frequent hiccups may indicate an underlying health condition. Persistent hiccups have associations with various conditions, including:

Hiccups typically only last a few minutes before disappearing on their own.

However, there are many techniques that may help get rid of hiccups. Methods to try include holding the breath, sipping very cold water, and biting a slice of lemon.

In some cases, hiccups may become chronic and last longer than 48 hours. Chronic or frequent hiccups may require further evaluation by a healthcare professional to determine the cause.