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What causes hiccups?

Do you get hiccups at the most awkward of times -- from important meetings to first dates? Find out why here.

Did you know the longest known case of the hiccups lasted 68 years? According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Charles Hobson had the hiccups from 1922 to June 5th, 1990, one year prior to his death. Can you imagine that?

What causes hiccups?

Watch Medibank expert Dr Zoe Boyatzis explain what can cause hiccups, as well as some common “remedies”.

Sometimes, hiccups can occur at the most inappropriate of times, like when you’ve got an important meeting coming up or you’re about to ask that person you really like out on a date.

They are caused by involuntary contractions in your diaphragm. With each contraction, your body sucks air into the lungs and suddenly closes your epiglottis, a small piece of tissue that stops food and saliva from going into your airways. It’s this sudden closing of the epiglottis that makes the ‘hic’ sound.  

MORE: What causes mouth ulcers? Find out here

There are some triggers which put pressure on your diaphragm and are known to prompt hiccups in people from time to time including:

  • Eating and drinking too quickly
  • Eating hot or spicy foods
  • Drinking fizzy drinks or too much alcohol
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Pregnancy

Stress and excitement are also known to cause hiccups, which might explain why when you do have those all-important meetings or first dates, the hiccups come on.

Babies are also prone to hiccups, even hiccuping in the womb! Hiccups in babies usually occur when they are feeding. While parents may be concerned about their baby hiccuping, most babies are not bothered by them. If your baby becomes upset or agitated when hiccuping, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor.

MORE: Read about what causes bad breath here

How do I cure hiccups?

Hiccups are usually harmless and will go away in a matter of minutes. Everyone swears by a different cure for hiccups, like holding your breath, biting on a lemon, or pulling your knees to your chest, but nothing’s actually been scientifically proven to work. But if one of these options works for you, stick with it!

My hiccups won’t go away, what should I do?

Specific lung and brain disorders as well as certain medications can affect the function of the diaphragm and make you more prone to hiccups. If you have hiccups that last more than 48 hours, it is a good idea to visit your doctor. They will be able to determine what is causing your hiccups and treat the underlying issue.

Learn more about common health conditions in our What Causes series here.

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