The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle located at the bottom of the chest. It's the main muscle used for breathing. When you inhale, it pulls down to draw air into the lungs. When you exhale, the muscle pushes up to push air out of the lungs.

A hiccup is a spasm of the diaphragm muscle. This causes you to quickly inhale air, causing the “hiccup” sound. This may occur after eating or drinking too quickly or too much or having an irritation in the stomach or throat. It may also occur when feeling nervous or excited. Often hiccups seem to happen for no clear reason.

In most cases, hiccups are not serious. They last just a few minutes, and often go away without any treatment. There are many home remedies for treating hiccups and sometimes they work. These include:

  • Holding your breath while counting to 10

  • Stimulating the back of your throat by:

    • Rubbing the back of your tongue with a finger (just short of gagging)

    • Sipping cold water

    • Gargling with water

    • Putting sugar on the back of your tongue

  • Breathing out with your mouth closed and your nose pinched (like when you are popping your ears on an airplane)

  • Pulling your knees to your chest and leaning forward

If the hiccups continue, medicine may be needed.

In rare cases, hiccups may last for days or weeks, but this is very unusual. When this occurs, it's often the sign of another medical problem. In these cases, tests may be done to help find the cause.

Home care

  • If your healthcare provider has prescribed medicine, take it as directed.

  • Try the home remedies mentioned above. If using sugar, place 1/2 teaspoon of dry sugar and let it dissolve on the back of your tongue. If needed, repeat this process 3 times at 2-minute intervals. People who have diabetes should not use this home remedy.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as directed. If testing was done, you’ll be told the results and whether there are any new findings that affect your care.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Hiccups continue for more than 3 hours

  • Hiccups affect sleeping or keep you from eating

  • Belly (abdominal) pain

  • Symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing or swallowing

  • Abnormally fast heart rate

  • Fainting

  • Vomiting blood

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