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What Causes Hiccups?

Everyone and their mother seems to have a unique cure for a bad case of the hiccups, but what I want to know is, what causes them in the first place?

A hiccup is an unintentional contraction of your diaphragm, the muscle that separates your chest from your abdomen. It plays an important role in breathing, and when it contracts, it makes your vocal cords close briefly and that's what causes the sound of a hiccup.

Hiccups are actually triggered by many things:

  • Eating spicy foods - It can cause irritation to the nerves that control normal contractions of your diaphragm.
  • Eating a large meal, eating too fast (swallowing air), or drinking carbonated beverages - These can cause your stomach to expand, which pushes up your diaphragm, making hiccups more likely.
  • Drinking alcohol - Alcohol can relax your diaphragm and vocal cords, making it easier for other factors to trigger hiccups.
  • Tobacco use - Tobacco use may irritate the nerves that control the diaphragm.

Want to know what else can cause hiccups? Then

  • Sudden temperature changes - Whether the change occurs inside your body (like drinking hot tea), or outside your body (when you go outside in the snow), it can cause hiccups.
  • Excitement or emotional stress - It's not clear why this can cause hiccups, but it may have to do with one of the nerves involved in the hiccup reflex being startled.

As annoying as hiccups can be, even if you don't sip water through a straw while pinching your nose, or hold your breath while saying the word "hippopotamus" in your head 5 times, hiccups will eventually go away on their own. Very rarely do hiccups last for more than 20-30 minutes. If they do, like this poor girl who had them for 3 weeks straight, there could be an underlying medical problem such as nerve damage. If this is the case, someone should definitely seek medical attention pronto.


Join The Conversation
jaclynloro jaclynloro 9 years
I always get them when I drink. People look at me like "Seriously?" As if they can't believe this is a real person hiccuping while drunk, and not like the typical bum who hangs out by the piers in cartoons.
DietsInReview DietsInReview 9 years
My trick is to take a table spoon of sugar or a sugar packet and let it dissolve on your tongue slowly then swallow.. And poof they are gone! Not exactly the dietetic remedy 
shafiii shafiii 9 years
i stick sugar on my tongue when i get them! i usually get thm from eating too quickly.
Mainly-Obsessed Mainly-Obsessed 9 years
I get them when I laugh a lot.
goofynewf goofynewf 9 years
I can't really say when I get them, they just happen. Vinegar is the greatest fix.
JustMe21 JustMe21 9 years
I get them if I eat certain breads and when I drink soda.
Amethyst Amethyst 9 years
I noticed that everytime I drink a cup of tea (specifically & only if its ginger tea) I get the hiccups. Maybe I'm allergic??
queenmorgan queenmorgan 9 years
I really do have an almost 100% reliable cure. If you drink 10 sips of water slowly, with a full pause in between, it helps relax you and regulate your breathing. And then, they are gone!
ejoy ejoy 9 years
For some reason, bananas and milk products seem to give me hiccups. So, I get them at least once a day, too!
jhuck jhuck 9 years
Every time I take the first drink of a carbonated beverage I hiccup once. That's the only time.
LaLaLaurie06 LaLaLaurie06 9 years
It seems like I get hiccups at least once a day.
nikkipez nikkipez 9 years
I get them when I eat peanut butter. its so annoying.
laurarose520 laurarose520 9 years
Oh man. I get them when I drink and it's so embarrassing. It's like, all that's missing are bubbles coming out of my mouth
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