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Hiccups are a common phenomenon in humans and many other animals. The sound and sensation we associate with the event occur when the diaphragm -- a muscle separating the chest and abdomen, involved in the breathing process -- contracts involuntarily, sometimes multiple times per minute. This diaphragmatic contraction is called a myoclonic jerk. Hiccups usually last only a short time, although there are cases of bouts of hiccups lasting much longer. The phenomenon is rarely problematic, though hiccups that begin to interfere regularly with sleeping or eating, or are accompanied by other symptoms, should prompt medical attention.

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1. Signs and Symptoms of Hiccups

When someone hiccups, a jerk or tremor can be felt in the shoulder, abdomen, throat, or whole body. Often, the reaction produces an audible sound, such as a chirp, gasp, squeak, or "hupp" sound. Hiccups can be distracting and may be painful in certain circumstances. Though they usually go away after a few minutes, if they persist they can eventually cause exhaustion and even weight loss.

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