Hiccups are caused by an involuntary contraction in your diaphragm, the muscle separating your chest from your abdomen. After each contraction your vocal cords suddenly close, producing the "hic" sound.
Short-term hiccups usually occur after eating too much, drinking carbonated drinks or drinking too much alcohol. Other causes include experiencing sudden temperature changes, excitement or emotional stress.
If you hiccup for more than five minutes, try swallowing a teaspoon of sugar, breathing into a paper bag, gargling with ice water or holding your breath for a short while.
Long-term hiccups can be caused by a sore throat; acid reflux; or a tumor, cyst or goiter in your neck. Other causes include damage to your central nervous system due to a stroke, multiple sclerosis or brain injury. Metabolic disorders including diabetes, as well as steroids, tranquilizers or other drugs also can bring on hiccups.
Your physician may prescribe medications, insert a tube through your nose and into your stomach or give an anesthesia injection to stop long-term hiccups. In persistent cases, surgeons may implant a device in your chest delivering mild electrical stimulation.