Hiccups - Singultus: causes and home remedies

Hiccups - Singultus: causes and home remedies

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Hiccups are mostly harmless

Hiccups (medically "singultus") are usually surprising and usually inconvenient. There is rarely a serious health problem behind the hiccups, so that in most cases self-help measures from the field of naturopathy are sufficient to end the suffering. Some of the traditional home remedies, tips and tricks may sound pretty absurd at first - but trying them out can be worthwhile.

What causes hiccups?

Hiccups (singultus) usually result from an irritation of the so-called phrenic nerve (diaphragmatic nerve). This is a spinal nerve that arises from the neck area and supplies the diaphragm with a motor.

When the nerve becomes irritated, the diaphragm (diaphragm), which is a large muscle suspended between the chest and abdomen, involuntarily contracts. We breathe in automatically, whereupon the vocal folds (vocal cords) also close. This is how the typical tone of hiccups comes about.

Mechanical and thermal causes

The cause of hiccups is often irritation of the diaphragm or the associated nerve (phrenic nerve). This irritation can be mechanical as well as thermal. Excessively large meals, carbonated drinks, very hot or ice-cold water and hot spices can trigger hiccups as well as external pressure. Strong gas formation (flatulence) in the context of indigestion can be the cause.

Hasty eating or drinking and the associated "swallowing air" are often the reason for the complaints. Even those who drink a lot of alcohol and / or smoke heavily are more susceptible. It is not uncommon for the hicksen to be psychological. Because stress, excitement, fear or sudden fright quickly lead to hectic, irregular breathing and thus to hiccups.

Hiccups due to illness

Less often, a more serious illness can be the trigger for the uncomfortable hickering. For example, so-called reflux, an esophagitis (esophagitis), esophageal diverticula or inflammation in the throat and larynx are possible.

Possible reasons are gastrointestinal flu (gastroenteritis) or gastritis (inflammation of the stomach), as well as chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis can be responsible for persistent hoofing. If there is additional massive abdominal pain, there may be an inflammation of the peritoneum (sometimes life-threatening), which absolutely requires medical treatment.

Liver diseases such as Hepatitis A can cause frequent hiccups. If the symptoms last longer, a pathological dilation of the abdominal artery (aorta) can be the reason (abdominal aortic aneurysm). Other possible causes are metabolic and hormonal disorders such as diabetes mellitus (diabetes) or an overactive thyroid.

In some cases, hoeing is associated with an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), which is colloquially referred to as “goiter” or “thick neck”. Here, many affected people report the feeling of having a lump in their throat, in addition there is often shortness of breath during exercise or certain head movements, hoarseness and swallowing problems.

Hiccups can be caused by brain disorders. Because if the functions of the brain nerves are disturbed or damaged, this can affect the vegetative nervous system or the vagus and diaphragmatic nerves. For example, meningitis (inflammation of the meninges), inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) or multiple sclerosis are possible, and hiccups can also be an important alarm signal for a stroke.

In rare cases, tumors in the ear and surrounding brain structures or growths in the neck are the reason for nerve irritation and the resulting difficulty in hiccups. With tumors in the abdominal and thoracic area it can happen that these (depending on where they are located) act directly on the diaphragm and the diaphragmatic nerve.

Lymph node swelling (e.g. due to infectious diseases or Hodgkin's disease) in this area can also affect the diaphragmatic nerve. Persistent hiccups can also indicate a brain tumor or daughter tumors from tumors from other parts of the body (metastases).

Hiccups caused by medication

In some cases, certain medications can be the cause of the discomfort. These include, for example, benzodiazepines, which are used as relaxation and sedatives (tranquilizers) or as sleeping pills (hypnotics). It is also possible that anesthetics, anti-epileptics, anti-Parkinson drugs and substances for the medicinal treatment of tumor diseases (chemotherapy drugs) have hiccups as a side effect. The same applies, for example, to psychotropic drugs with antipsychotic, sedative and psychomotor depressant effects (neuroleptics) and cortisone preparations (glucocorticoids).

If the hiccup appears to be increased or more frequent in connection with the use of medication, a discussion with the attending doctor should be held promptly. Danger: If you need to take medication regularly, do not stop taking it on your own and do not change the prescribed use to avoid taking health risks. Always get advice from your doctor first.

First aid: home remedies for hiccups

There are various home remedies for acute hiccups, which often sound a bit strange at first. However, many of the applications actually cause the hiccup to stop. This is because the little tricks lead to the fact that the focus is distracted from the hiccups and the person concerned concentrates on the exercise. Breathing calms down, which allows the diaphragm to relax again and the hiccups disappear.

Even if there is no remedy that is guaranteed to drive away hiccups - just try several methods. It is important to breathe slowly and regularly so that the breathing can relax again and the hoeing can disappear. Breathe in deeply and hold your breath for 20 to 30 seconds, the diaphragm can stabilize in the inhalation position and has a moment to calm down.

In many cases, apple cider vinegar offers quick help by taking a teaspoon of it undiluted. It can also make sense to drink lemon juice, bite into a slice of lemon, or slowly let an ice cube melt in your mouth. Alternatively, let a piece of sugar cubes melt in your mouth or slowly eat a teaspoonful of sugar.

In some cases, the hicksen can be dispelled if a glass of cold, still water is drunk in quick, small sips. The other way round, cold drinks and food can also cause hiccups.

Some experts recommend sticking out or pulling on the tongue. Because in the course of this, breathing changes automatically, which has a relaxing effect on the diaphragm and the body as a whole.

Chew a clove to calm the irritated diaphragm. Inhaling a small amount of pepper through the nose can have a soothing effect. Because the sneezing it produces is basically nothing more than an "explosive" exhalation, through which breathing is balanced again and, in the best case, the hiccups are dispelled.

Dill herb (Anethum graveolens) is often recommended as a medicinal plant in naturopathy for hiccups, since it contains antispasmodic agents and, accordingly, helps above all if the hiccup is due to an indigestion. The seeds of the herb can be chewed, alternatively the preparation of a medicinal tea with the leaves is recommended.

In general, be careful not to drink too hastily and not to snake while eating. Take your time, eat slowly and chew every bite extensively ("fletching"). Refrain from eating and talking at the same time and always try to speak slowly and calmly.

Avoid very cold, very hot or very spicy dishes (with chilli, tabasco etc.) as well as alcohol and nicotine on an empty stomach. Avoid (above all) carbonated drinks such as beer, sparkling wine or cola for sumptuous meals and prefer to use still water or similar instead.

Feeling shame increases the hicksen

It is very uncomfortable for many people to get hiccups in public because they cause them to attract attention or fear to be considered “childish” or “tipsy”. But fear and shame make the situation even more difficult, as these emotions cause stress and disrupt the respiratory system even more. As a result, the hiccups cannot go away, but is often even intensified.

Tip: So try not to spasmodically suppress the hiccups or hide embarrassed. Instead, think of hickering as what it is - an involuntary and natural body response that can occur to anyone, anytime. Take it with humor, stay calm and try to normalize your breathing with little tricks.

When to see a doctor on hiccups?

In most cases, the hicksen is annoying, but harmless and disappears after a while. However, if there are certain signs, you should be vigilant and, as a precaution, consult a doctor to find out the cause.

See a doctor if:

  • You are very often affected by hiccups,
  • this suddenly occurs more often than usual,
  • it does not disappear, but longer, e.g. lasts all day
  • other complaints such as chronic fatigue, constant regurgitation, abdominal pain, nausea, heartburn, or a swollen throat.

Danger: If, in parallel to the hiccups, there are suddenly persistent symptoms of paralysis or numbness, speech and / or visual disturbances, extremely severe headaches, dizziness, gait insecurity or balance problems, the emergency call must be made immediately Telephone number 112 be dropped off; be discontinued; be deducted; be dismissed. In this case, it can be a warning sign of a stroke.

Hiccups in babies

Even before birth, babies experience hiccups in the mother's womb. The reflex is helpful for the unborn child in order to train the respiratory muscles, since no amniotic fluid can flow in through the closed glottis. Hicksen also has a valuable function after birth, as the reflex ensures that breast milk does not get into the lungs when drinking. In adults, however, hiccups no longer have a biological meaning.

What to do about hiccups in children?

Hiccups are basically just a protective reflex of the body in babies and are therefore usually not a cause for concern. On the contrary, the hicksen fulfills a biological meaning and is neither felt by the child as painful nor uncomfortable. Accordingly, it is not absolutely necessary to do something about it.

If you still want to help your child get rid of the hiccups, e.g. because it does not put you to sleep, you can try different ways. Important is, however, that most of the known tricks and home remedies for adults should never be used on babies. Parents should therefore never try to alleviate the hoax by, for example, holding their child's nose or scaring them.

It can be helpful if you let your child make a so-called peasant after every meal. To do this, take your child up so that the head is on your shoulder and gently pat the baby on the back. Since physical closeness has a calming effect on the child, being on the arm can also help outside of meals. You can also gently blow the child's face so that he is distracted and changes his breathing rhythm.

To relieve hiccups by relaxing, singing something to your child, stroking it, or gently massaging the soles of your feet can help. Offer the baby something to drink by putting it on or giving him the bottle.

Since the hicksen can also be caused by thermal influences, make sure that your child is dressed warm enough. A cherry stone or grain pillow can also provide soothing and relaxing warmth when placed on the baby's stomach.

Important: Always check the back of your hand or cheek to make sure it is at the right temperature before using a heat pad. If it is still too warm, let it cool down first. (jvs, nr)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Jeanette Viñals Stein, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Ohlrich, M., Royl, G .: Singultus - Diagnostics and Therapy, Current Neurology 2014; 41 (02): 116 - 124, DOI: 10.1055 / s-0034-1367057, (available on 09.09.2019), thieme
  • C. Straus et al .: A phylogenetic hypothesis forthe origin of hiccough, BioEssays 25: 182-188, (accessed September 9, 2019),
  • Jürgen Stein, Till Wehrmann: Functional diagnostics in gastroenterology, Springer Verlag, 2nd edition 2006
  • Norton J. Greenberger: Hiccups, MSD Manual, (accessed 09.09.2019), MSD

ICD codes for this disease: F45.3, R06.6 ICD codes are internationally valid encodings for medical diagnoses. You can find yourself e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.

Video: Hiccups (August 2022).