Hiccups are repeated spasms or sudden, involuntary movements of the diaphragm that you can’t control. The diaphragm is the muscle that separates your abdomen from your chest and plays an important role in breathing. When your diaphragm spasms, your vocal cords suddenly close – producing the ‘hic’ sound of hiccups.
Image credit: Healthify He Puna Waiora and Laboratoires Servier, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
While the cause of hiccups is usually unknown, sometimes they can be triggered by certain things. These include:
- eating hot or spicy food
- eating too quickly
- eating too much
- swallowing air, eg, when smoking or chewing gum
- drinking too much alcohol or carbonated drinks
- being stressed
- getting too excited
- a bad smell.
Sometimes hiccups can be caused by certain medicines (eg, epilepsy medication) or as a side effect of surgery. Very occasionally, hiccups can be the symptom of a more serious underlying condition or disease. Read more about possible causes of ongoing hiccups(external link).