The low-down on hiccups!

Hic! Hic! Oh, hiccups! We’ve all had them. Some of us experience this little jolting sensation more than others, and there are different levels of extremity and ridiculousness, with the frequency, pitch, and tone of this amazing phenomenon unique to each of us.

But, what are causing these squeaks and squawks to pop up from our throats, IS THERE A CURE?! And, is there ever a time we should worry about them?  

Ok, so first thing’s first – in almost every case, having the hiccups is a totally normal phenomenon (even though the whole hiccupping thing doesn’t feel that normal), and are nothing to get too worried about.


Whoah, what is happening???

The sensation of hiccupping occurs when our diaphragm becomes irritated, which causes it to suddenly contract. As the diaphragm contracts, the space between our vocal chords quickly closes in order to check how much air the body is taking in, in a slamming kind of motion (hence the ‘hic’). The same thing can occur when the nerve extending from the neck to our chests is also irritated.


So, what conjures our hics up?

Although hiccups can be associated with a lot of different conditions, there are none found that are said to be the sole cause of this strange sensation. Having said that, there are a few things that are known to often cause hiccups, including…

  • eating too fast , causing us to swallow air as well as that scrumptious meal we’re scoffing down
  • hot or spicy foods
  • indigestion
  • fizzy drinks
  • smoking cigarettes
  • stress
  • bad odours
  • pregnancy


How to hic-down?

As anyone who’s experienced the hiccing of ups - or the up-hiccing - or the hiccups – knows, they usually go away after a few short moments, minutes at the worst. But, there are a few old pieces of folk law floating around that claim to work (and most of them do!)


  • holding your breath or breathing into a paper bag
  • eating some fresh ginger
  • sucking on a lemon
  • a hot drink made with honey and lemon
  • eating a spoonful of sugar
  • sitting down and leaning over the knees
  • getting a fright

The reason why most of these suggestions actually work is due to the build-up of carbon dioxide in the blood, which stops hiccups from surfacing. Drinking water or pulling on your tongue is also said to work because it’s stimulating our vagus nerve.


A fun hic trick

Try This! – If you notice a friend with the hiccups, simply ask them casually, “hey, what’s your favourite number?” – in most cases, your hiccupping friend will pause, ponder, and produce an answer – and subsequently notice that their hiccups have disappeared!

(Although I’m unaware of any scientific explanations, my guess is that it has something to do with distraction!) 


When hiccups can be hostile

As we pointed out earlier, it’s unusual that hiccups mean serious problems, but sometimes, hiccups can be a sign of a bigger picture issue… Lung or brain disorders can affect the diaphragm, and can also be a side effect of surgery or some types of medication - these hiccups usually last a lot longer. There are other things that can cause long-lasting hiccups, too!

  • an overactive thyroid
  • pleurisy
  • abdominal or chest surgery
  • certain epilepsy medications
  • nicotine gum

Although usually totally harmless, if you have the hiccups for an extended period of time (over three hours), you experience abdominal pains, or you notice blood, seek a professional health professional.

So, now you know the ins and outs, the ups and down -hic!- Oh, no… -hic!-

Unt -hick!- il next time, -hic!!!- live well everyone! :)