Contributor: Kaitlyn Aston. Lesson ID: 12502

Hiccups are strange, aren't they? We may know some different odd cures, such as drinking water upside-down, holding your breath, or scaring someone, but what causes us to get hiccups? Any volunteers?


Life Science

learning style
personality style
Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Primary (K-2)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


You may not know yet what causes those pesky hiccups, but the next time you can't stop them, you can blame it on this: Do you know what the red figure in the picture is called? (Hint: It’s a muscle that helps you breathe.)

Before you even start thinking about those uncontrollable hiccups, take a moment to think about a few things that you can control.

  1. Hold up your left hand.
  2. Now, bend the fingers of your left hand, then squeeze your hand into a tight fist.
  3. Hold it, and . . . relax.
  4. Now, shake out your hand and raise your arm above your head.

Great job! Now you can put your arm back at your side again.

  • Did you notice that all of those actions required you to think about what you needed to do?

You read the command, processed what you had to do, and then your brain sent signals to the muscles in your hand and arm to make them move. These types of actions are called voluntary actions — This means that you can control these muscles and make a variety of movements. Now, as you were reading this,

  • How many times did you think about digesting food or making your heart beat?

Probably none, and this is because these muscle movements are all involuntary actions — meaning they just do their job on their own without you having to think about it.

Now you can get back to that thing from the picture earlier and hiccups. You were just provided with some examples of voluntary and involuntary muscles, but your diaphragm — which is another part of your respiratory system — is both a voluntary and involuntary muscle. Think about it:

  • How often do you think about breathing?

You usually don't unless you need to hold your breath or are told to take a deep breath. Your eyelids work the same way! Happily, they do not give you problems like hiccups. Let's see Dr. Jo to find out what causes hiccups:


Ah, the diaphragm! To answer the question from earlier, the diaphragm is the muscle that is both voluntary and involuntary. This means that you can control it (such as when you hold your breath and stop breathing), but it will also contract and relax without the need of your command to do so (such as when you breathe every day without even realizing it).

Do you remember from the previous Related Lesson on breathing, found in the right-hand sidebar, how many times the average person can breathe per day?

Take a deep breath and come on over to the Got It? section for a quiz!

Elephango's Philosophy

We help prepare learners for a future that cannot yet be defined. They must be ready for change, willing to learn and able to think critically. Elephango is designed to create lifelong learners who are ready for that rapidly changing future.