PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 December, 2008, 12:00am

A sudden attack of the noisy spasms can be embarrassing, but there are ways to control it

Hiccups can be embarrassing. Imagine you are in a quiet room. You suddenly have a series of loud hiccups and there's nothing you can do about it.

Hiccups or hiccoughs are sounds made by spasms or contractions of your diaphragm. The diaphragm is the muscle that separates your chest from your stomach and plays an important role in breathing.

As the muscle contracts repeatedly, you involuntarily suck air into your throat. This shuts the opening of your vocal cords. This sudden closure of the vocal cords causes the unmistakable 'hic' sound of hiccups. Hiccups can last for a few seconds or minutes.

The causes of hiccups

We don't really know why hiccups occur. Sometimes they just happen for no apparent reason.

But there are triggers that can cause pressure on the diaphragm or stomach.

Eating too fast and gulping air down along with your food

Eating hot or spicy foods


Drinking too much alcohol

Fizzy drinks



Sudden changes in temperatures

Sudden excitement

What to do when you get hiccups

There are lots of home remedies that your friends or grandmother must have told you about. Some of these work by allowing carbon dioxide to build up in the blood.

Our body is more concerned about getting rid of carbon dioxide than making hiccups.

Hold your breath and count up to 20

Drink a glass of water very quickly

Sip ice water

Gargle water

Get someone to frighten you

Pull on your tongue really hard

Put half a teaspoon of sugar on the back of your tongue and repeat every two minutes if necessary

Take long, deep breaths

Breathe into a paper bag

Hold your nose and close your mouth like you would before you jump into a swimming pool

Suck a piece of fresh ginger

Suck on a slice of lemon

Sit down and lean forward over your knees

Put your fingers in your ears but don't stick them in too far!

Get someone to tickle you

Did you know?

Men are more likely to get hiccups than women

Babies in the womb get hiccups

Charles Osborne made it into the Guinness World Records for having had the longest attack of hiccups - 68 years. It was estimated that he had more than 430 million spasms.