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Spasmodic contraction of the diaphragm that causes a sudden breath in, cut off when the vocal cords snap together, creating the characteristic sound. Causes include overdistended stomach, gastric irritation, and nerve spasms. The many folk remedies for hiccups interrupt the rhythm of the spasms. The most common and effective treatment is to hold the breath as long as possible. Hiccups usually stop within minutes, though they may last days, weeks, or longer. Prolonged severe hiccups are treated with nerve blocks or by surgically cutting the nerve that supplies the diaphragm.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on hiccup, visit Britannica.com.