What Causes Hiccups?

What Causes Hiccups

What Causes Hiccups? To children they can be the funniest thing in the world but after a while they're really annoying. Find out what causes hiccups and how to get rid of hiccups below.

Hiccups (sometimes referred to in the medical field as Singultus) are an uncontrolled spasm of the diaphragm, the dome shaped muscle at the bottom of the chest that separates the abdominal cavity from the chest and lungs.

When the diaphragm moves down it causes a person or child to breath by pulling air into the lungs. When exhaling, the diaphragm will naturally move upwards and force the air out. If the diaphragm spasms uncontrollably or becomes irritated, it causes a sudden movement of air into the lungs which causes the typical ‘hiccup’ sound when the air passes by the vocal cords.


There are many causes of hiccups and everyone is different when it comes to determining that specific trigger that brings them about. Here are a few commonly reported causes of hiccups:

  • Eating too fast or quickly
  • Eating too much food
  • Eating spicy foods
  • Anxiety, nervousness

Personally, I’ve found that if I eat too much bread, potatoes or other starchy food too fast, there’s a really good chance I’ll get the hiccups. Other members of my family will get a bad case of the hiccups when they eat really spicy foods or especially anything with large amounts of pepper or horseradish. It’s actually very comical to watch sometimes, especially if a child or baby comes down with the hiccups. Take a look at this episode of hiccups and you’ll see what I mean:

Expectant mothers often encounter similar issues when the fetus develops Fetal Hiccups. Fetal hiccups are very common and often occur later in the pregnancy when the fetus has more fully developed their nervous system. The contracting diaphragm reacts in the very same way and will cause the fetus to develop noticeable hiccups, often felt and seen by expecting Moms. It’s very common and sometimes fun and interesting to watch.

When it comes to adults and kids though, most would say that hiccups are a real pain and stopping them becomes priority number one as they can be very annoying.


Since it’s an uncontrollable spasm, there are few things that you could do ahead of time to stop the hiccups from occurring. However, there are many remedies out there that people swear by that can cause the hiccups to stop and here are a few of the more popular methods:

  • Simply holding your breath until they go away (within reason of course)
  • Being put in a position of being scared (Sometimes it helps to have a “friend” that can scare the daylights out of you!)
  • Holding your breath and sticking your head underwater (this was a new one and I’ve never personally tried it before.)
  • Light a match, blow out the flame and inhale the smoke (again, not sure if this works but probably not a good idea to try on your child.)
  • Holding your hand over your ears real tight and then they mysteriously go away.
  • Drink water upside down (again, tough one for a child to do.)
  • Drink a glass of water while holding your breath
  • Drinking a glass of water by putting your lips on the opposite end of the glass which forces you to bend over while drinking the water (yes, people swear by this one!)
  • Inhale and exhale a few times into a paper bag (breathing into a paper bag is old school but it sometimes works.)

Obviously, if you have a child that has the hiccups we would caution you to be careful using any of these remedies. When it comes to younger children under 5-years old, I would highly recommend supervising them as some episodes can be traumatic and cause other problems (i.e. choking if eating food, vomiting, etc.)

Although hiccups can be entertaining to those who do not have them, they can be a real pain to adults and children alike. It can be tough to determine what causes hiccups but the bottom line is to watch to see what triggers them in your body and try to avoid those situations. For me, I don’t plan on quickly eating lots of bread or potatoes anytime in the near future! Good luck!

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