The hiccup is caused by involuntary contractions, spasmodic and coordinated all the inspiratory muscles (diaphragm and intercostal muscles), associated with closureglottis. It results in repetitive, sometimes noisy shaking Its usefulness is still not understood, but hiccups are a complex respiratory movement that humans share with all vertebrates! The usual hiccups are usually trivial and not serious. But if it becomes chronic, a medical consultation is necessary.


This is the usual hiccup that everyone knows. It can be seen at any age and it is a mild symptom, which does not require special treatment and however inconvenient for the sufferer. It usually lasts a few seconds and manifests as a few isolated twitches of hiccups When prolonged, acute hiccups result in repetitive, sometimes noisy shaking of a few minutes but it never persists for more than 48 hours and it ceases spontaneously.

Although its cause is mostly unknown, it can be related to:

  • to an excess of food especially if it is spicy,
  • to the fact of having eaten very quickly,
  • heavy alcohol consumption,
  • ingestion of carbonated drinks,
  • swallowing air by chewing gum for example (aerophagia),
  • stress or emotion,
  • to a simple irritation of the esophagus …

Hiccups: definition

Often the hiccups will go away very quickly. However, sometimes it can take the form of a real illness when it lasts longer than 48 hours

Where do hiccups come from?

Hiccups are a respiratory reflex that is characterized by a succession of involuntary contractions of the diaphragm. This causes expulsions of air, associated with a closing of the glottis, and the production of a sound: the “snag”, characteristic of hiccups. Hiccups are caused by irritation of the phrenic nerve, which is responsible for innervating the diaphragm.

An ancestral reflex

Specialists consider this to be a heritage from our oldest ancestors, the fish, and their brachial ventilation or amphibian breathing. This reflex is reused by the brain to defend the esophagus. ” In the vast majority of cases, it is due to the acidity of the esophagus or a problem with the stomach: an ulcer, gastric reflux or esophagitis “, explains Professor Jean Cabane. (Source: Sciences et Avenir, Hugo Jalinière )

Hiccups, which usually last a few minutes, can be triggered by giggling, coughing, tickling, eating a meal that is too big or too spicy, a meal that is swallowed too quickly (a feed that is too fast in infants), or even stress.

What are the symptoms?

Hiccups are manifested by a particular noise emitted by the mouth. An uncontrollable “snag” that often occurs on inspiration with a sudden sensation of contraction of the abdomen. The spasm may repeat up to once per second but goes away very quickly. In infants, it often occurs after a feed or bottle, and before the baby burps In rarer cases, hiccups can be chronic and last more than 48 hours.

What to do in case of hiccups?

  • There are many ways to get over hiccups. Here are some of them:
  • Drink cold water without breathing,
  • Breathe in air and stop breathing,
  • To prevent hiccups, it is advisable to eat light, slightly spicy, and calm. Additionally, carbonated drinks should be avoided.

It is advisable to consult a doctor when the hiccups persist for more than 48 hours or become too frequent. In this case, the doctor can then order tests to determine the causes of a possible disease. You should also see a doctor when the hiccups are accompanied by stomach pain, vomiting, or difficulty breathing.

What are the consequences?

Hiccups usually stop spontaneously. It is harmless. When it becomes chronic, it can be associated with a more serious disease, such as esophagitis. Hiccups can then be very disabling in daily life (difficulty falling asleep, drinking, eating …). In the long term, it causes insomnia and eating disorders. Also, it can have significant repercussions on social life

6 reasons for hiccups

We all suffered from hiccups sooner or later. These involuntary contractions of the diaphragm muscle are annoying and sometimes very bothersome, especially when they are prolonged. By understanding the causes, you can try to prevent and avoid them more easily.

Eat too fast

The main cause of hiccups is usually related to the consumption of food. Eating too quickly, eating too much food, or eating spicy foods that are too hot or too cold can cause hiccups. Prevention, therefore, consists of learning to eat slowly and to avoid overeating.

Bad habits

Drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes are not only bad habits, they can also cause hiccups. By not overdoing it, you can limit awkward situations.

Emotional state

Intense stress or excitement can trigger an attack of hiccups. When you feel adrenaline starting to rise, or your heart rate quickens, remember to breathe, advises Reader’s Digest.

Gastric reflux

Hiccups can be linked to a very common pathology, gastroesophageal reflux. Sometimes a vicious cycle can occur when hiccups increase reflux symptoms, and the reflux triggers hiccups. A healthcare professional can help patients cure this condition, thereby reducing hiccups.


In some cases, abdominal surgery can cause hiccups, as well as stomach tumors, central nervous system disorders, or stroke, Reader’s Digest says. If symptoms do not improve within hours, see a doctor.

Rare problems

In the event of persistent hiccups, which lasts longer than 48 hours, the cause may be gastroesophageal reflux disease, medication, neurological disease, various infections, as well as, in the rarest cases, cancer. In case of persistent hiccups, professionals can offer anti-acidity treatments, or solutions to treat nervous system problems. Minor surgeries help block certain nerves when drugs aren’t enough.

Anti-hiccups solutions

Are hiccups ruining your life? You can try the most popular techniques: hold your breath, slowly drink a large glass of water, let a sugar melt on your tongue, lie down and relax while breathing slowly, or place an ice cube on your stomach.

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