What are hiccups?

The main muscle that helps your lungs expand and contract to breathe is the diaphragm, which is in your abdomen and controls the volume of your chest cavity. Hiccups (also spelled hiccough) happen when this diaphragm muscle spasms. In response, you vocal cords snap shut, causing the “hic” sound you hear with hiccups. This condition is usually harmless and temporary, but prolonged cases may indicate some disease process or digestive problem that is causing the condition.

What are home remedies for hiccups?

There are numerous home cures for hiccups. You can try these methods at home to get rid of hiccups:

Methods that cause the body to retain carbon dioxide, which is thought to relax the diaphragm and stop the spasms, which cause the hiccups:

  • Hold your breath

Techniques that stimulate the nasopharynx and the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain to the stomach, and can decrease hiccuping:

  • Drink a glass of water quickly
  • Have someone frighten you
  • Pull hard on your tongue
  • Bite on a lemon
  • Gargle with water
  • Drink from the far side of a glass
  • Use smelling salts
  • Place one-half teaspoon of dry sugar on the back of your tongue. (This process can be repeated three times at two-minute intervals. Use corn syrup, not sugar, for young children.)

What is the treatment for hiccups?

Most hiccups will stop on their own. Home remedies are generally sufficient to resolve hiccuping.

For persistent hiccups (lasting more than three hours), treatment varies, and you may need to contact your doctor.

  • A “hiccup bout” is an episode of hiccups that lasts up to 48 hours
  • “Persistent hiccups” continue more than 48 hours, up to one month
  • “Intractable hiccups” last longer than one month

A health-care professional may prescribe medications for severe, chronic hiccups. Chlorpromazine (Thorazine) is usually the first-line medication prescribed for hiccups.

Other medications used to treat hiccups include haloperidol (Haldol) and metoclopramide (Reglan).

Some muscle relaxants, sedatives, analgesics, and even stimulants have also been reported to help alleviate hiccup symptoms.

Phrenic nerve surgery (the nerve that controls the diaphragm) is a treatment of last resort. This treatment rarely is performed and is used only in individuals with hiccups that do not respond to other treatments.

What kind of doctor treats hiccups?

Hiccups generally go away on their own and do not require medical treatment, however, if hiccups last more than three hours or disturb eating or sleeping, you may see your primary care provider (PCP) such as a family practitioner, internist, or a child’s pediatrician.

There may be many different specialists who treat hiccups depending on the underlying cause, for example:

  • If the cause is a stroke or other neurological disorder, you may see a neurologist, a specialist in the nervous system and brain.
  • If the cause is acid reflux, you may see a gastroenterologist, a specialist in disorders of the digestive system.
  • If the cause is lung disease or pneumonia, you may see a pulmonologist, a specialist in disorders of the respiratory tract.

Medically Reviewed on 2/4/2019



Wilkes, G. “Hiccups.” Medscape. Updated: Dec 20, 2016.