• Question: What causes hiccups?

    Asked by MC to Ceri, Marikka, Matt, Rob on 19 Nov 2014.
    • Photo: Marikka Beecroft

      Marikka Beecroft answered on 19 Nov 2014:

      Because of something called your diaphragm is having spasms. Your diaphragm is just a long piece of muscle under your lungs that controls your breathing and if it spasms or twiches it causes the hiccups! No one really knows what causes hiccups but most people think that it’s because your throat or stomach gets upset or damaged which causes the hiccup.

    • Photo: Robert Hampson

      Robert Hampson answered on 20 Nov 2014:

      Hiccups (English spelling: hiccoughs) are a reflex action. In other words, they are an automatic response by your nervous system. You cannot stop them.

      There are two theories as to where they came from. The first is that they are an evolutionary hangover from when the respiratory system and lungs were still developing. Amphibians and lung fish and the like gulp air in a similar manner to hiccoughs to breathe correctly. It is proposed that although mammals no longer need to do this we never lost the physiological reflex so occasionally we still do. This theory is supported by the fact that hiccoughs are common when lung CO2 is high. The second theory is that hiccoughs help suckling infants to release gas from their stomach while breastfeeding. This is supported by the fact that hiccoughs are much more common in babies and only mammals (who breastfeed) seem to suffer with hiccoughs.

      There is also a phase during foetal development when a specific nerve is developing, at this time the foetus continually hiccoughs. However, they are slightly different from hiccoughs that adults occasionally get.