NHS website


Hiccups occur when the diaphragm suddenly and involuntarily contracts (tightens), resulting in a hiccup sound being produced at the top of the windpipe.

10 December 2018


Most people get hiccups sometimes. They should only last a few minutes – you can usually wait for them to go away or treat them yourself without seeing a GP.

Things you can do yourself to stop or prevent hiccups

Although many people find these things helpful, there's no evidence that they work for everyone.


  • breathe into a paper bag (don't put it over your head)
  • pull your knees up to your chest and lean forward
  • sip ice-cold water
  • swallow some granulated sugar
  • bite on a lemon or taste vinegar
  • hold your breath for a short time


  • do not drink alcoholic, fizzy or hot drinks
  • do not chew gum or smoke – these can cause you to swallow air
  • do not eat spicy food
  • do not eat food very quickly
  • do not eat or drink something very cold immediately after something hot

Why we get hiccups

There's often no obvious reason why you get hiccups, but some people find certain things trigger their hiccups, such as:

  • stress
  • strong emotions, like excitement
  • eating and drinking

In rare cases, hiccups that last longer than 48 hours can be due to a medical condition or a medicine you're taking.

See a GP if your hiccups:

  • last longer than 48 hours
  • come back very often and are affecting your life

Treatment from a GP

Your GP will want to find out if your hiccups are caused by a health condition or medication you're taking – treating the condition or changing your medicine should stop your hiccups.

If there's no obvious cause, they might be able to prescribe medicine to treat your hiccups. This doesn't work for everyone.