What’s the Deal with Hiccups?

We’ve all had them. Once can be funny, twice or three times hilarious, but anything much more than that can become pretty maddening, right? So why does our body do such a strange—and annoying—thing? What’s the point of hiccups, anyway?

huccups book

There are some adorable kids’ books about hiccups, including this one

Hiccups can happen for a variety of causes—some physical, some emotional—and result from an irritation to the nerves connecting your brain with your diaphragm. Anything from a hair touching your eardrum to a sore throat can affect these nerves, but the most common causes are these:

  • Eating too much or too quickly
  • Drinking carbonated beverages or too much alcohol
  • Feeling nervous or excited, or general stress
  • Swallowing air while sucking on candy or chewing gum
  • A sudden change in temperature

So, okay, I admit to having done or experienced all of the above, at least on occasion. But there are also times when I’ve gotten the hiccups completely out of the blue. I’ll be sitting watching TV or walking my dog around the neighborhood, when all of a sudden—HIC!

So what gives?

I have no idea. (And now I’m thinking I really should write a scene where Sally Solari gets a severe case of the hiccups while trying to surreptitiously tail a murder suspect.) But at least I’ve never had them for more than about a half hour. ’Cause it turns out that actual damage (as opposed to temporary irritation) to those nerves can result in some long-term hiccups—hours, days, or even worse.

hiccup length

We all have our favorite cures for the hiccups—everything from holding your breath, to using smelling salts, placing sugar on the back of your tongue, pulling hard on your tongue, biting on a lemon, or having someone scare the living daylights out of you.

hiccups scare

My own personal favorite is the bend-forward-as-you-drink-from-the-front-of-a-cup remedy.

hiccup cure

This generally seems to work for me, and my pet theory for the reason why, is that the brain has to concentrate so darn hard to keep from spilling the liquid in the cup that it forgets it’s supposed to be doing the hiccup thing.

But I still have to wonder: Why the heck do we get hiccups? And what possible evolutionary purpose could they serve?


Readers: What’s the longest amount of time you’ve ever had the hiccups? Any favorite remedies you’d care to share with us all?

29 thoughts on “What’s the Deal with Hiccups?

  1. My mom was in the sugar-on-the-tongue camp for hiccup remedy. I’m not sure it works, but I don’t mind the “treatment.” In fact, I use it prophylactically!

    And since we’re on the topic of hiccups, I couldn’t help but think of “hiccup girl,” the young woman who gained media attention because of her weeks-long bout of hiccups and who was later arrested on a murder charge connected with a robbery. It’s a strange and tragic story.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I hate hiccups, because they can hurt sometimes. Luckily, I don’t get them often. When I was a kid, my friend’s Dutch mom swore by putting a knife in a glass and drinking from the opposite rim. Works like a charm. I figure it’s a combo of the brain-distraction factor and…FEAR!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Ooh, Lisa, on some British comedy show I watched the main character had the hiccups and everyone kept asking if she’d tried drinking from the wrong side of the glass. That was a new one for me. I may have to try it next time I have hiccups!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Leslie, until now my hiccup cures had been limited to drinking water or holding my breath — thanks for expanding my horizons! Sugar on the back of the tongue sounds good to me.:)

    Liked by 3 people

  4. At last! An opportunity to share Connie’s Never-Fail Hiccup Cure!
    1. Get a large glass of water
    2. Wait until you have JUST hiccupped
    3. Take a huge breath and hold it
    4. Immediately begin drinking down small sips of water as fast as you can, continuing until you absolutely must breathe
    5. Let the breath out slowly
    6. Hiccups gone!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I find that drinking water helps with the hiccups, but I can do it from the regular side of the glass.

    As far as these cures, I agree with Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes fame) when he theorized that most of the cures for hiccups were more about being entertaining for the friends of the person suffering from them than an actual cure for them.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Leslie, forgive the reading delay! Life. But oh, how I hate the hiccups. I knew someone who had them for three days. I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. You see stories of people who have them for like, a month, and I’m like, how did they survive that?! I do the drinking a ton of water thing and it seems to help. Now I hope I don’t get sympathy hiccups after reading this post!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Hiccups are so annoying! My kids both had them frequently when I was pregnant and it would cause half my body to jerk, they were so strong. A heaping spoonful of peanut butter usually does the trick for us… and I share your belief that it’s because you’re concentrating on something else long enough for your muscles to relax.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Very interesting, Leslie! I really want to know what the scientific reason is for them.

    Also the reason for why when one person yawns, everyone else starts yawning too…it’s so magical and weird. (And now I just yawned…does it work when you type the word yawn too?)

    Liked by 2 people

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