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Hiccups happen: Here’s how to cure them

By The Health News Team | July 19, 2023
Woman holding her hand over her mouth

Hiccups come at the most inconvenient times, often causing us to make embarrassing, uncontrollable sounds while desperately trying to remember the remedies thought to cure them. But what really happens when you have the hiccups? And how can you get rid of them?

What is a hiccup?

The medical term for hiccups, singultus, is from the Latin word “singult,” which means “the act of catching one’s breath while sobbing.” Hiccups are an involuntary spasm of the diaphragm, which is the muscle that separates the thorax (chest area) from the abdomen (belly area).

Experts believe the spasm likely occurs when the vagus nerve located in the back of the throat is stimulated. Once stimulated, it delivers information from the brain to the stomach and other organs, which can trigger the hiccup reflex.

The spasms then cause the glottis, a fold near where the vocal cords are located, to close. This expels air from the lungs, causing the distinctive — and infamous — “hic” sound.

Having a bout of hiccups can be due to a multitude of reasons. These include eating too fast, drinking carbonated drinks, eating spicy food, swallowing too much air, drinking alcohol and even smoking. Additionally, a sudden change in the temperature of food being eaten and stress can also trigger hiccups.

How do I stop hiccups?

According to experts, the best way to get rid of hiccups is by “distracting” the vagus nerve. The remedies below might help:


Breathe in deeply and hold it for 10 seconds; don’t exhale and take a second breath; don’t exhale and take a third breath; and then exhale.


Breathe into a paper bag.


Drink or gargle ice-cold water.


Drink from the “wrong” — or opposite — side of the glass by leaning forward over the glass and carefully tipping the rim of the glass away from your body, sending the liquid into your mouth while you remain bent forward. Swallow in the same position.


Bite into a slice of lemon.


Eat a tablespoon of peanut butter, honey or sugar.

To avoid hiccups in the future, steer away from eating spicy food, chewing gum, drinking alcohol and carbonated beverages, and smoking. Make sure to chew your food thoroughly and drink slowly.

Talk with your doctor if the hiccups cause persistent pain or persist after 48 hours. Hiccups that last longer than 48 hours can be an underlying sign of a more serious and rare illness.

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