Symptoms and Signs of Hiccups

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 11/12/2021

Doctor's Notes on Hiccups

A hiccup is the term that refers to a sudden involuntary contraction of the diaphragm muscle. When this happens, the vocal cords snap shut and create the characteristic sound associated with hiccups. Most cases of hiccups go away on their own and are not associated with other symptoms and signs. Eating too rapidly or eating or drinking too much are the most common causes of hiccups. 

Medical conditions can sometimes cause hiccups, but this is much less common. Medical conditions that might cause hiccups include:

  • stroke,
  • brain tumors, or
  • conditions or injuries that irritate the nerves that control the diaphragm.

Sometimes, taking certain medications increases a person’s risk of having hiccups. These medications include, among others:

  • levodopa,
  • benzodiazepines, and
  • medications to treat acid reflux.

What Is the Treatment for Hiccups?

There are a number of ways to get rid of hiccups, including:

  • Drinking cold water
  • Swallowing foods such as pieces of bread or sugar
  • Gargling with water
  • Briefly holding your breath
  • Pulling on your tongue
  • Gagging by placing a finger in the opening to the throat

Cases of chronic hiccups may require management with prescription medications.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.