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Hiccups

Definition

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. This closing of vocal chords produces a distinctive sound.

Alternative Names

Singultus

Considerations

Hiccups often start for no apparent reason. They most often disappear after a few minutes. In rare cases, hiccups can last for days, weeks, or months. Hiccups are common and normal in newborns and infants.

Causes

Causes may include:

There may be no obvious cause for hiccups.

Home Care

There is no sure way to stop hiccups, but there are a number of common suggestions that can be tried:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your health care provider if hiccups go on for more than a few days.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

If you need to see your provider for hiccups, you will have a physical exam and be asked questions about the problem.

Questions may include:

Additional tests are only done when a disease or disorder is suspected as the cause.

To treat hiccups that do not go away, the 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 provider.

If hiccups continue, medicines may help. Tube insertion (nasogastric intubation) may also help.

In very rare cases, if medicines or other methods do not work, treatment such as phrenic nerve block may be tried. The phrenic nerve controls the diaphragm.

References

American Cancer Society. Hiccups. Updated June 8, 2015. www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/hiccups.html. Accessed February 13, 2017.

Bope ET, Kellerman RD. Symptomatic care pending diagnosis. In: Bope ET, Kellerman RD, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2017. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 1.

US Department of Health and Human Services. Chronic hiccups. Updated December 2014. rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6657/chronic-hiccups. Accessed February 13, 2017.


Review Date: 1/26/2017
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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