The Reasons Why We Hiccup and How To Make Them Stop

November 30, 2020

We all have experienced hiccups from time to time. They can be uncomfortable or even embarrassing, but they are typically short-lived. However, sometimes they can indicate a more serious health issue.

If you have recurring or long-term hiccups, do seek medical help. Early diagnosis can open doors to treatment which can prevent future complications. Here are some causes of hiccups and how you can make them stop!

What are hiccups?

Hiccups are involuntary contractions of the diaphragm – the major muscle of respiration. Each contraction is followed by the sudden close in the vocal cords, which makes the distinct “hic” sound from your mouth. Hiccups are generally harmless as they resolve themselves after a few minutes.

Hiccups that lasts longer than 48 hours are defined as chronic hiccups. Chronic hiccups can cause gastroesophageal reflux which may lead to symptoms like heartburn, pain when swallowing, or bloating.

Why do hiccups happen?

Hiccups can happen because of many reasons – both physical and emotional. The common reasons include:

  • Eating or drinking too much or too fast: The stomach, which lies right underneath the diaphragm, expands after eating. This could trigger hiccups by pressing on or irritating your diaphragm.
  • Emotional triggers: Emotions like stress, anxiety, or excitement can trigger hiccups. This is due to the disturbance in the nerve pathways that lead from the brain to the muscles between the ribs.
  • Temperature changes: A change of temperature in your esophagus can cause hiccups. It is related to the irritation or stimulation of the nerves that cause the diaphragm to contract. For example, eating very spicy and acidic foods or drinking very cold liquids can sometimes trigger hiccups.

Hiccups are rarely a cause for concern, but if it is affecting your quality of life, it is time to get it checked. Persistent and frequent hiccups could point at serious health issues, including cancer. For example, some types of cancers where individuals may experience hiccups are stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, and lung cancer. This can happen when a tumour is pressing against the diaphragm. Persistent hiccups could also be due to a problem with the brain, blood composition, or the stomach.

If you are experiencing symptoms like severe abdominal pain, vomiting, fever, shortness of breath, or spitting up blood, do consult a doctor for an in-depth examination.

What are some ways to stop hiccups?

There is no one cure for hiccups that works for everyone. However, there are several well-known home remedies you could try. These include:

  • Holding your breath for a short time
  • Taking a few sips of ice-cold water
  • Having a taste of lemon or vinegar
  • Experiencing a sudden fright

For more severe hiccups that cannot be cured by home remedies, visiting a doctor would be recommended, especially if the hiccups persist for more than 3 hours. Specialists can diagnose the cause of hiccups and give you the best possible medical treatment. A doctor may prescribe medications such as Thorazine, Haldol, or Reglan. Thorazine and Haldol are sometimes used for hiccups related to stress or anxiety. Reglan is an anti-nausea medication that may help some people with hiccups.


The occasional hiccup attacks are normal, but when it becomes frequent and longer-lasting, it could be a sign for a serious medical condition. Remember to take persisting hiccups seriously and visit a professional who can help you. Prevention is better than cure!