A hiccup is an unintentional movement (spasm) of the diaphragm, the muscle at the base of the lungs. The spasm is followed by quick closing of the vocal cords. This closing of vocal chords produces a distinctive sound.
Hiccups often start for no apparent reason. They most often disappear after a few minutes. In rare cases, hiccups can last for days, weeks, or months. Hiccups are common and normal in newborns and infants.
Causes may include:
There is usually no specific cause for hiccups.
There is no sure way to stop hiccups, but there are a number of common suggestions that can be tried:
Contact your health care provider if hiccups go on for more than a few days.
If you need to see your provider for hiccups, you will have a physical exam and be asked questions about the problem.
Questions may include:
Additional tests are only done when a disease or disorder is suspected as the cause.
To treat hiccups that do not go away, the provider may perform gastric lavage or massage of the carotid sinus in the neck. DO NOT try carotid massage by yourself. This must be done by a provider.
If hiccups continue, medicines may help. Tube insertion into the stomach (nasogastric intubation) may also help.
In very rare cases, if medicines or other methods do not work, treatment such as phrenic nerve block may be tried. The phrenic nerve controls the diaphragm.
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.