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Hiccup : Diagnosis and Treatment

Hiccups are contractions in the muscles of the diaphragm (muscles that restrict the chest and abdomen) that occur suddenly and are not realized. When the contraction occurs, the vocal cords close to cause hiccups.

Hiccups can be caused by several things. Starting from eating or drinking too fast and a lot, consuming too many alcoholic and carbonated drinks, smoking, strokes, brain tumors, taking certain drugs, just having surgery in the abdominal area, and experiencing abnormalities that irritate the nerves in the diaphragm muscles.

In general, hiccups only last a few seconds to a few minutes. But if you experience hiccups that don't stop for three hours or more, consult a doctor immediately.

Causes of Hiccups

Hiccups occur when the muscles that separate the stomach and chest (diaphragm) contract accidentally. The diaphragm has an important role in the human respiratory system. This is because the body depends on contractions and movements of the diaphragm so that the breathing process takes place normally.

When breathing, the diaphragm muscle will go down (contraction) and will rise again (relaxation) when we exhale. In hiccups, the diaphragm muscle will contract suddenly, and cause the air to enter the lungs too quickly, so the valve of the respiratory tract closes and causes sound.

This sudden contraction of the diaphragm muscle can be triggered by a variety of things, both of which last only temporarily or prolongedly. Temporary hiccups can be triggered by a number of conditions, such as spicy food, carbonated and alcoholic drinks, chewing or sucking on sweets, smoking, and eating too much or too fast. In addition, sudden changes in temperature, feeling nervous, too excited, or stress can also trigger temporary hiccups.

Hiccup Diagnosis

Hiccups can be diagnosed only from medical interviews and physical examinations. But to find out the cause, a variety of supporting investigations that are relevant to things that are suspected must be done.

For example, when a person is suspected of suffering from hiccups due to a brain tumor or stroke, the doctor can perform a CT scan of the head or MRI of the brain to confirm the cause.

Symptoms of Hiccups

Hiccups themselves are a symptom. When hiccups, you will feel a slight boost and an increase in pressure in the abdominal cavity, chest and sound.

Hiccup Treatment

You can do a number of practical ways that you can do at home, such as holding your breath, and drinking or gargling with a glass of water.

If hiccups don't disappear in 48 hours, you need medication to help deal with hiccups. Your doctor can give various medications to relieve your hiccups. But this drug is classified as a hard drug, so it can only be obtained by prescription.

If the drug cannot help (which is very rare), phrenic nerve surgery (the nerve that controls the diaphragm muscle) can be the final ultimate weapon to relieve the hiccups you experience.

This condition can occur due to:

  • Metabolic disorders (for example due to hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia or diabetes).
  • Vagus nerve disorders (for example in cases of meningitis, pharyngitis, and goiter).
  • Nervous system disorders (for example due to severe injury to the brain, inflammation of brain tissue or encephalitis, tumors, and strokes).
  • Respiratory disorders (for example in pleurisy, pneumonia and asthma).
  • Indigestion (eg due to intestinal obstruction, intestinal inflammation, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)).
  • Psychological reactions (eg stress, joy, sadness, fear, or shock).

Apart from these conditions, long-lasting hiccups can also occur due to side effects of using drugs, for example:

  • Chemotherapy drugs (drugs used to kill cancer cells).
  • Opioid pain relievers (such as methadone and morphine).
  • Benzodiazepines (sedative groups to deal with anxiety attacks).
  • Anesthesia (a drug that causes numbness or loss of consciousness that is usually given before undergoing a surgical procedure).
  • Methyldopa (a drug usually prescribed in the treatment of hypertension).
  • Barbiturates (one type of sedative that is sometimes given to treat seizures).
  • Corticosteroids (drugs to deal with swelling and inflammation).

If hiccups are not caused by underlying conditions or the reaction of drugs, the hiccups will usually subside on their own without the need for medical treatment. There are several ways that you can do to help stop hiccups faster, including:

  • Bend forward so that your chest feels depressed.
  • Pull both knees to touch the chest.
  • Breathe in a bag made of paper.
  • Smelling vinegar.
  • Swallowing sugar.
  • Bite the lemon.
  • Hold your breath in a relatively short time.
  • Drink cold water slowly.

How to get rid of hiccups

Temporary hiccups can disappear on their own without special treatment. Several ways can be done to reduce it faster, such as:

  • Eat warm water and honey
  • Gargling
  • Hold your breath
  • Take a deep breath
  • Breathe using a paper bag
  • Eat fresh ginger
  • Sucking a lemon slice

Special treatment needs to be done if the hiccups last long or are caused by an illness. Handling for prolonged hiccups can be done through administration of baclofen, chlorpromazine, metoclopramide, gabapentin, or scopolamine to calm the diaphragm. If the administration of the drug above has not been able to overcome hiccups, the doctor will inject the anesthetic directly into the nerve that controls the contraction of the diaphragm.

For hiccups that cannot be treated with medication, the doctor will provide electrical stimulation to the nerves around the neck using special tools. And keep in mind, hiccups caused by an illness, it is necessary to deal with the disease.

Hiccup complications

Complications that can arise due to hiccups, namely:

  • Discomfort
  • Lack of sleep
  • Difficult when eating food
  • Gastric Acid Reflux (GERD)
  • Alkalosis

Prevention of Hiccups

You can prevent hiccups by avoiding eating and drinking too much and fast.



1. Chang, FY. Lu, CL. (2012). Hiccup: Mystery, Nature and Treatment.

2. NORD (2005). Hiccups, Chronic.

3. American Lung Association (2018). The Inconvinient Hiccup.

4. National Organization for Rare Disease (2018). Hiccups.

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Is a health and wellness enthusiast. In him free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.