What causes hiccups? Home remedies to use and what to do if babies get them

Hiccups are both mysterious, as they arrive for no apparent reason, and transient, as they leave again just as quickly.

The bizarre bodily function is caused by the diaphragm involuntarily contracting, which causes the glottis, an opening between the vocal cords, to close rapidly, which is the source of the comical noise.

The diaphragm contracts involuntarily when nerves become irritated or damaged. Although sometimes hiccups come and go for no obvious reason, there are causes.

Hiccup episodes may be triggered by a number of things, including:

1. Eating too much or too quickly

2. Drinking alcohol or fizzy drinks

3. Smoking

4. Sudden changes in temperature

Periods of intense emotional reactions such as excitement, stress or fear can also be a cause, so just calm down.

Hiccup fits can come at the most inconvenient times, as this Australian boy found out:

Home remedies

If you get a bout of the hiccups and are too impatient to let it pass, here are some top tips, courtesy of NHS Choices, on how to get rid of them.

  1. Breathe into a paper bag

  2. Pull your knees up to your chest and lean forward

  3. Sip ice-cold water

  4. Swallow some granulated sugar

  5. Bite on a lemon or taste some vinegar

  6. Hold your breath for a short time


Everyone gets hiccups from time to time, but what happens when a short fit doesn’t go away?

NHS Choices recommends seeing a GP if your hiccups last longer than 48 hours or come and go so often to the extent it affects your life.

Persistent hiccups are rare but could be a symptom for a serious condition, from respiratory problems, to cardiovascular disorders and or issues with your digestive system.

It could also be related to certain types of medication you may be taking, including benzodiazepines (such as Valium).

Newborn babies

Babies under a year-old are prone to hiccuping, which is normally caused by feeding. However, normally there is nothing to worry about because it is unlikely to affect their breathing.

Most bouts will pass in a similar vein to with adults, but if parents don’t want to let it pass, they can burp their baby or give them a dummy to move things along.

If your baby’s hiccups are uncontrollable, happen very frequently, or occur often after the age of one, it is wise to talk to your child’s doctor.