Your diaphragm helps control your breathing, so when it contracts, you take in a sharp breath. Your vocal cords (glottis) at the top of your throat then close to control the intake of air, producing the typical 'hic' sound.
Anyone can get hiccups, though men are much more likely to get long-term hiccups than women.
In most cases, hiccups last only a few minutes, go away on their own and don’t need treatment. Hiccups that last more than two days, or keep coming back, could be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
Short bout of hiccups
A short (transient) bout of hiccups often starts or stops without an obvious cause. Things that can irritate your diaphragm and trigger transient hiccups include:
Avoiding these triggers may help you get fewer bouts of hiccups.
Hiccups that last more than two days (persistent hiccups) or that keep coming back (recurrent hiccups) may have an underlying medical cause.
This could be a condition that’s affecting your diaphragm or the nerves in your head and neck that control its movements. These include:
Long-term hiccups can also be a side effect of a medicine you’re taking or can start after you’ve had stomach surgery or a general anaesthetic.
You’re more likely to get long-term hiccups if you have a condition that affects your metabolism, the process that converts food to energy. These include:
In rare cases, long-term hiccups may also be a symptom of conditions that affect your central nervous system, such as:
See your GP if your hiccups last for more than 48 hours, if they keep coming back, or they’re making it harder to eat, drink or sleep normally.
Your GP will diagnose hiccups from your symptoms. They may refer you for other tests and scans to find out what’s causing them, such as:
In most cases, you won’t need treatment for hiccups. Some people find these self-help hiccup cures get rid of hiccups, though there’s no proof:
If your hiccups are affecting your everyday life, your GP might recommend:
Specialist treatments include: