"Hiccups are a sort of a stutter of the chest, caused by spasms of the diaphragm. They occur when you eat and breathe simultaneously and too quickly, causing your body to get confused. The one way to stop them is to break the rhythmic cycle of contractions, ie, to relax. Fortunately, there are a multitude of ways to achieve this.

Breathe as deeply and calmly as possible. Hold your breath, or place a paper bag over your head (for a short time only). What you're trying to do is increase the amount of carbon dioxide in your bloodstream, which has a relaxing effect on the diaphragm. Alternatively, try the ingest- something approach. This usually involves swallowing a teaspoon of sugar (the high carbon content in sugar provides a short-term boost to the metabolism, which increases respiration). Otherwise eat something sour or otherwise challenging to the palette, which works only by distracting you from the hiccuping.

Another method is to do something unusual. This depends on generating sensations that your body doesn't encounter every day. Your body then stops paying attention to the repeat loop going on in your diaphragm. So anything that produces disorientation might prove effective, such as swinging in a child's swing with your eyes closed, putting your trousers on backwards, or drinking upside-down. Really, any `cure' can work, if it distracts and thereby relaxes you." Interview by Fiona McClymont

Jason Roberts is the founder and CEO of the Learn2.com website