What Exactly Are Hiccups Anyway?

Hiccups or, as they’re more scientifically known, an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm are an ailment that everybody gets now and then. But why do they happen and how can you get rid of them?

Hiccups are reflexive spasms of the diaphragm and glottis caused by irritation to any of several nerves in the body. Contractions of your diaphragm help you move air into and out of your lungs during normal breathing. And all that air moves through your larynx and glottis, which is the opening between your vocal cords

When you hiccup, at least half of the diaphragm contracts sharply. That contraction starts pulling in a deep breath but is cut short by the glottis snapping shut, which creates the “hic” sound.

Most of the time, hiccups are caused by irritation of the phrenic nerves which control your diaphragm’s movement. That irritation is usually caused by your stomach expanding when you accidentally swallow air or when you eat or drink too much too quickly, especially carbonated beverages.

Many home remedies to get rid of hiccups actually work because they overload the phrenic nerves or interrupt your breathing cycle. Some of which include having a friend tickle or scare you, holding your breath or gulping water. Different remedies affect different people in different ways, so the best advice is to try them all, until you find the thing that works best for you.

But if your hiccups stick around longer than 48 hours, you might want to see a doctor just in case. Luckily, there are some medications that will ease a chronic case of the hiccups. A variety of medications are on offer with different effects, which include relaxing muscles, easing nausea and easing psychosis.

Even if your hiccups are bad, they are nothing compared to the case that Charles Osborne suffered. He started hiccuping in 1922 and couldn’t stop until 1990. That’s 68 years of the hiccups.