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Definition Return to top
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.
Considerations Return to top
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.
Causes Return to top
There may be no obvious cause for hiccups.
Home Care Return to top
There is no sure way to stop hiccups, but there are a number of common suggestions that may be effective:
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Contact your health care provider if hiccups persist for more than a few days.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit Return to top
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. THIS MUST BE DONE BY THE HEALTH CARE PROVIDER. DO NOT ATTEMPT CAROTID MASSAGE AT HOME!
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.
References Return to topPollack MJ. Hiccups. In: Rakel P, Bope ET, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2008. 60th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2008:chap 4. Update Date: 2/22/2009 Updated by: Linda Vorvick, MD, Family Physician, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.