Hiccups can be hilariously awkward, but most of the time they are just plain uncomfortable. That’s why pretty much everyone has their own quick fix treatment to get rid of them.  

Although you may believe you have mastered hiccup evasion, do you know how they occur? To save you from all that head scratching you’re about to do, our doctors have answered all the common questions that arise around the topic of hiccups. 

What are hiccups?  

A hiccup is a spasm in the diaphragm, this results in a strange ‘hic’ noise escaping from your mouth (hence the name). Hiccups signature sound occurs as the vocal chords push together and snap due to the extra air being involuntary sucked into the throat. Ouch! 

What causes hiccups?  

Most doctors agree that hiccups are caused by either coughing or swallowing excess air. Other triggers of hiccups can be:  

  • Hot or spicy foods 
  • Indigestion 
  • Fizzy drinks 
  • Smoking 
  • Bad odours 
  • Pregnancy  

How do I get rid of hiccups?  

Old wives tales tell us that someone can scare the hiccups out of you. While this theory has never really been proven, there are plenty of people who swear by it as well as many other various home remedies. If you are keen to see if they work, here are some DIY strategies you can try:  

  • Holding your breath 
  • Taking deep breaths 
  • Breathing into a paper bag 
  • Eating some fresh ginger 
  • Sucking on a lemon 
  • Eating some sugar 
  • Drinking a glass of water slowly 
  • Eating some ice 
  • Gargling some water 
  • Sitting down and leaning forward over your knees. 

While these ideas may seem kooky, there might be some science behind them. Activities like holding your breath raises the bloods CO2 levels which has been shown to inhibit spasms in the diaphragm. Alternatively, stimulating the vagus nerve that runs from the brain to the stomach by eating or drinking may help end the hiccups 

Who is prone to hiccups?  

Anyone can experience hiccups at any point in their lives. However, we do tend to lose the ability to hiccup with age. Premature babies are more prone to hiccups than full term babies. This is believed to be a result of their underdeveloped lungs.  

Are hiccups serious?  

Hiccups are often harmless and go away fairly quickly. However, an episode of hiccups that lasts for a few days or more can be indicative of other illnesses. If you’re experiencing a prolonged bought of hiccups, or getting hiccups often, you should see a GP.