Hiccups can be quite the inconvenience, and oftentimes even painful. After a spasm of the diaphragm (the muscle at the base of the lungs) occurs, the vocal cords rapidly close, causing a distinct sound known as the hiccup. While hiccups may occur for no apparent reason, some causes include reaction to harmful fumes, hot and spicy foods or liquids, and pneumonia, which irritate the nerves that control the diaphragm. In newborns and infants, hiccups commonly occur and are normal. Usually they will disappear after several minutes, however rarely may persist for days, weeks, or months. Unfortunately, there is no definite cure for hiccups. The National Library of Medicine recommends breathing repeatedly into a paper bag, drinking a glass of cold water, holding your breath, or eating a teaspoon of sugar. The sugar may be taken 3 times at two-minute intervals if the first try is unsuccessful. Other methods to try at home include becoming frightened or using smelling salts. If hiccups persist for a few days and medical attention is required, your doctor may use medications to control the hiccups. Chlorpromazine (Thorazine) is usually the first medication to be used. Baclofen (Lioresal) and phenytoin (Dilantin) have also been used successfully. Surgery is a last resort alternative to medications.