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
Phrenic Nerve
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Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of hiccups are:

  • Eating habits—too much, too fast, or too spicy
  • Drinking alcohol or fizzy drinks like soda
  • Sudden changes in temperature
  • Smoking
  • Stress or strong emotions
  • Certain medical procedures, such as endoscopy

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 symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done. Tests that may be done to look for a cause include:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Echocardiogram
  • Images of the body, such as:



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:

  • Alternative methods, such as massage and acupuncture
  • Medicines such as:
    • Antipsychotics
    • Antiseizure medicine
    • Medicines to treat nausea
    • Muscle relaxers


There are no known guidelines to prevent hiccups. People who get them often may want to avoid:

  • Eating too much too quickly
  • Spicy foods
  • Smoking
  • Drinking fizzy drinks or alcohol
  • Stress or strong emotions

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.