A hiccup is an unintentional movement (spasm) of the diaphragm, the muscle at the base of the lungs. The spasm is followed by quick closing of the vocal cords, which produces a distinctive sound.
Hiccups often start for no apparent reason and usually disappear after a few minutes. Rarely, hiccups can last for days, weeks, or months. Hiccups are common and normal in newborns and infants.
There is no sure way to stop hiccups, but there are a number of common suggestions that may be effective:
Contact your health care provider if hiccups persist for more than a few days.
If hiccups persist to the point that you visit your health care provider, a medical history will be taken and a physical examination will be performed.
Medical history questions may include the following:
Diagnostic tests are rarely necessary unless a disease or disorder is suspected as the cause.
To treat persistent hiccups, the health care provider may perform gastric lavage or massage of the carotid sinus in the neck. Do not try carotid massage by yourself. This must be done by a health care provider.
If hiccups continue, medications such as phenothiazine (especially chlorpromazine), baclofen, or anticonvulsants may help. Tube insertion (nasogastric intubation) may also provide relief.
Very rarely, medical methods fail to treat persistent hiccups. Further treatment may include a phrenic nerve block. The phrenic nerve controls the diaphragm.
Rucker JC. Cranial neuropathies. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth-Heinemann; 2008:chap 74.
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