“Hic!” You’ve just hiccuped for what seems like the tenth time since you finished your big dinner. Wonder where these funny noises are coming from? The part to blame is your diaphragm (say: die-uh-fram). This is a dome-shaped muscle at the bottom of your chest, and all hiccups start here.
The diaphragm almost always works perfectly. It pulls down when you inhale to help pull air into the lungs, and it pushes up when you exhale to help push air out of the lungs. But sometimes the diaphragm becomes irritated, and when this happens, it pushes up in a jerky way that makes your breath come out differently from how it normally does. When this irregular breath hits your voice box, you’re left with a big hiccup.
Some things that irritate the diaphragm are eating too quickly or too much, an irritation in the stomach or the throat, or feeling nervous or excited. Almost all cases of the hiccups last only a few minutes. Some cases of the hiccups can last for days or weeks, but this is very unusual, and it’s usually a sign of another medical problem.
You’ve probably heard lots of suggestions for how to get rid of hiccups, and maybe you’ve even tried a few. Breathing into a paper bag is one way some people can get rid of their hiccups; other people say that drinking from the “wrong” side of a glass of water is the way to become hiccup-free. Putting sugar under your tongue might work, too. And maybe the most famous treatment – having someone jump out and scare you when you’re not expecting it – helps some people wave good-bye to their hiccups.
But remember, not all hiccup cures work for everyone!