Hiccups are spasms of a muscle in the chest. They repeat without control. Each hiccup feels and sounds like a gasp.
Most hiccups go away quickly. Some may last a few minutes to a few hours. In some people, they may last more than 48 hours. This is not common.
Hiccups are caused by things that irritate a muscle in the chest. This muscle is called the diaphragm. It helps the lungs take in air during breathing.
Phrenic Nerve and Diaphragm
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Things that may raise the risk are:
Hard to control hiccups are more common in men. The risk is also higher in people with an underlying health problem or injury.
The main symptom is a repeating spasm in the chest that cannot be controlled. A person may also make a gasping sound.
Medical care may be needed if hiccups do not go away or cause other problems. The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done. Tests may be done to look for a cause.
Tests may be:
Most hiccups go away on their own. Or they can be treated with methods at home, such as holding one's breath or breathing into a paper bag.
Hiccups that do not go away on their own may be treated with:
There are no known guidelines to prevent hiccups. People who get them often may want to avoid:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Lee, G, Kim, R, et. al. Gender differences in hiccup patients: analysis of published case reports and case-control studies. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2016 Feb;51(2):278-83.
Hiccups. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hiccups. Accessed January 6, 2021.
What causes hiccups? Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
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Updated August 2014. Accessed January 6, 2021.
Last reviewed February 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 1/6/2021