What Causes Hiccups?

by Anthony Carter on February 28, 2011


hiccupsHiccups can be annoying. Most of us will get them from time to time, but for some people they can occur with a bit too much regularity. What causes hiccups? Maybe by answering this question we might be able to do things to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Generally speaking hiccups are harmless, but they can cause a lot of embarrassment if they occur at the wrong time – like when you are giving an important presentation.

What is a Hiccup?

Before we can move on to looking at the causes of hiccups it is important to determine what they actually are. A hiccup is caused by an uncontrolled spasm of the diaphragm. This spasm causes us to draw a rapid intake of breath and it is this that creates the infamous hiccupping sound. The spasm itself is caused by the phrenic nerve; this nerve is situated in the neck and has some control over a number of organs including the diaphragm. There is no clear agreement on the reason why we develop hiccups or even if they serve any useful purpose.

What Causes Hiccups?

You may have noticed that there are certain activities that seem to bring on hiccups. If we avoid these then we should be able to greatly decrease our risk of developing this symptom at the wrong time. Here are just some of the possible causes of hiccups –

  • Eating or drinking has been shown to cause hiccups.
  • Drinking a lot of alcohol seems to make people likely to develop hiccups.
  • If we are trying to talk and eat at the same time then this can cause the symptom.
  • Laughing too hard can bring on hiccups.
  • It is claimed that eating spicy food can mean that some people will develop hiccups.
  • Eating food that is too hot can also mean that we have this symptom.
  • Excitement or nervousness can cause people to get hiccups.
  • Anything that irritates the stomach or throat.

In most instances the hiccups will only last a few minutes. We have probably all heard plenty of techniques for stopping them; holding our breath, putting sugar under our tongue, or drinking from the wrong side of a glass. One of the most popular ways to get rid of the hiccups is to be distracted by something that startles us; this is why when our friend suddenly shouts boo in our direction they might be trying to help us. Each of us seems to have our favorite way of dealing with hiccups and what works well for one person might not work well for another.

In the vast majority of cases hiccups will only ever be a minor symptom that lasts a few minutes and is then forgotten about. Occasionally though there will be people who develop hiccups that just don’t respond to any attempt to cure them with home remedies. If you have hiccups for a long time then you will need to seek medical treatment.

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