Who doesn’t get hiccups? They can happen to anyone at any age. There are some things you can avoid to prevent hiccups. They’re harmless but, if they last a long time, they could be a symptom of a severe illness. The longest bout of hiccups lasted 60 years!
Hiccups are repeated spasms of your diaphragm paired with a ‘hic’ sound from your vocal cords closing. Your diaphragm is a muscle under your ribcage, separating your chest and stomach area. This muscle is an important part of the breathing process. It moves downward when you breathe in and upward when you breathe out.
Two things happen when you hiccup:
These actions make the ‘hic’ sound of the hiccup. The process of the hiccup happens very quickly and you’ll usually return to normal within minutes to a couple of hours without treatment.
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Yes. Hiccups can happen to adults, children and babies.
Hiccups are more common in men. They can also have hiccups for a longer period.
It’s not clear why people get hiccups. There are several reasons hiccups might happen, including low levels of carbon dioxide in the blood and irritated nerves. The phrenic nerve (which connects the neck to the diaphragm) and vagus nerve (which connects the brain to the stomach) are important parts of the breathing process.
Mild hiccups (those that go away in a short time) can happen when you:
If your hiccups don’t go away within a few days, they are called ‘persistent.’ If they last for a few months they are called ‘intractable’ (long-lasting hiccups). Long-lasting hiccups are rare. They can be stressful and exhausting. Intractable hiccups can be part of a larger, underlying medical problem and might not go away until that issue is corrected.
Some of these larger, underlying conditions include:
Hiccups can also happen after surgery and during the recovery process from a procedure. See a healthcare provider if your hiccups last for a long period of time.
Diagnosing hiccups is not complicated. Your healthcare provider needs only to listen to the ‘hic’ sound.
However, your healthcare provider may perform a physical examination to see if an underlying condition may be causing your hiccups. If the physical examination reveals anything of concern, he or she may order tests such as imaging tests, endoscopic tests and lab tests.
Because the exact cause of hiccups is uncertain, some remedies may or may not work. These home treatments will not hurt you, so there is typically no harm in trying them. Home treatments include:
Hiccups that last for a long time can be treated by medication. Prescription drugs used for long-lasting hiccups include:
Babies get hiccups just like children, teenagers and adults. In fact, a developing fetus can get hiccups! Babies under 12 months often get hiccups and they’re unharmed by them. If you want, you can try to stop them by breastfeeding or giving them some water. However, if the hiccups don’t stop after a couple of hours, see your healthcare provider.
Kids can try the home treatments listed above.
Never hesitate to contact your pediatrician if you have a concern about your child.
Sometimes medications taken before a treatment can prevent hiccups from happening. For example, hiccups caused by anesthesia can be prevented by taking metoclopramide beforehand. Steroids with ramosetron might prevent chemotherapy-related hiccups.
Again, mild hiccups (those that go away in a short interval) can happen because of the following. Therefore, you may try to avoid the following to prevent hiccups from happening. Try not to:
Hiccups can last minutes, hours, days or, if severe, weeks. The longest known and recorded bout of hiccups lasted 60 years!
Yes. Often no treatment is needed, either home remedies or treatment provided by your healthcare provider.
Hiccups shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying your daily activities.
If your hiccups last only minutes to a couple of hours, you probably don’t need to see your healthcare provider. However, if the hiccups last more than a few days (typically two), you should see him or her. When the hiccups happen at the same time as symptoms like a headache, trouble keeping your balance, or numbness, it can be a sign of something more serious. If you have those symptoms with hiccups, see your healthcare provider immediately or go to the nearest emergency room.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hiccups are usually harmless. Most stop without treatment, or with simple home remedies. They don’t reduce your quality of life. However, remember to keep an eye on how long they last. Hiccups may be a symptom of a serious illness, or they could just be annoying.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/06/2021.
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