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Why do we have hiccups?

These illustrations of the larynx (voicebox), show the vocal cords open (top), allowing breathing and closed (bottom), allowing...Read More >>These illustrations of the larynx (voicebox), show the vocal cords open (top), allowing breathing and closed (bottom), allowing speech.A hiccup is an involuntary contraction (tightening) of the diaphragm, the sheet of skeletal muscle that lies under the rib cage and helps to control breathing. Normally, when you inhale (breathe in), the diaphragm pulls down, helping to suck air into the lungs. When you breathe out (exhale), the diaphragm relaxes, the lungs are squeezed, causing air to be pushed back out through the nose and mouth. Sometimes, however, the diaphragm becomes irritated. It jerks downwards—often at regular intervals—making you suck air into your throat suddenly. When this incoming air meets your voice box, the vocal cords close, making a “hic” sound.


During breathing in (left), the diaphragm flattens and the intercostal muscles move the ribs up and outwards. This increases the...Read More >>During breathing in (left), the diaphragm flattens and the intercostal muscles move the ribs up and outwards. This increases the space inside the chest cavity so that air is sucked into the lungs. During breathing out (right), these muscles relax and the space inside gets smaller, squeezing the lungs so that air is pushed out.{alt}Click to play video

Causes of hiccups

No one knows quite why hiccups occur. Most cases of hiccups come after eating or drinking too much or too quickly. Some people get them after drinking fizzy drinks or eating spicy food. In rare cases, hiccups can last for a long time. If they last longer than a month they are called "intractable", and are linked with certain medical conditions.
Breathing into a paper bag increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the lungs, which may relax the diaphragm, sometimes causing...Read More >>Breathing into a paper bag increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the lungs, which may relax the diaphragm, sometimes causing the hiccups to stop.

Remedies

Hiccups may also be spelled "hiccoughs”.

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