Ever have a persistent case of the hiccups? It happens to all of us once in a while, but it doesn’t make them any less annoying. Luckily, they’re relatively easy to get rid of, so there’s no need to stress about it. We’ve put together a list of causes and cures you can try next time you feel the hiccups coming on. Keep reading to find out how to get rid of this pesky inconvenience. Don’t worry, you won’t have to ask anyone to jump out and scare you!
What Are Hiccups and What Causes Them?
Hiccups are involuntary contractions of the diaphragm. Your diaphragm separates the thoracic cavity (your chest) from the abdominal cavity (your stomach) and plays an important role in breathing. The particular “hic” sound that results from the involuntary spasm is due to your vocal cords suddenly closing.
Keep in mind: You might feel tension in your abdomen or chest while you have the hiccups. This can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.
Causes of hiccups
Even healthcare providers can have a difficult time determining the cause of hiccups. They tend to be associated with irritation, inflammation, or a problem related to your nervous system or diaphragm Below are some possible causes of hiccups based on their duration:
Hiccups that last less than 48 hours:
- Eating too much or too fast
- Alcohol consumption
- Drinking very hot beverages
- Drinking carbonated beverages
- Eating or drinking foods that have irritants, like spicy dishes
- Emotional stress
- Sudden temperature changes
Persistent or chronic hiccups
Hiccups that last more than 48 hours may be treatment resistant and continue for up to a month. They tend to be more severe and interfere with daily life, making it hard to eat or sleep. Some causes associated with this type of hiccups are:
- Central nervous system conditions like multiple sclerosis, meningitis, encephalitis, tumors, or traumatic brain injuries
- Phrenic or vagus nerve irritation or damage due to gastroesophageal reflux, tumors, goiter (swollen thyroid glands), cysts, throat inflammation, or a foreign object that touches the tympanic membrane
- Some medications that suppress your central nervous system, like barbiturates or steroids
- Metabolic disorders like diabetes, alcoholism, electrolyte imbalances, or kidney disease
- Strong emotions, stress, or anxiety
- Abdominal surgery
- Side effect of local or general anesthesia, specifically in the abdominal area
13 Remedies for Hiccups
Now that you have a basic understanding of what causes hiccups, here are some popular and effective ways to get rid of them.
Pull your tongue
The first remedy is based on applying pressure to certain areas of your body, in this case your tongue. This maneuver stimulates the nerves and muscles in your throat and calms hiccups as a result.
Keep in mind: Pull the tip of your tongue gently but firmly with the tip of your index and ring fingers and pull slightly outward. You can repeat this a few times or hold it for a few seconds.
Hold your breath
This simple trick is very effective. Take a deep breath, hold it for 15-20 seconds, and release the air slowly and completely from your lungs. Repeat as necessary.
Gargle a bit of cold water for 20 seconds or more, then repeat if necessary.
Breathe into a paper bag
Take a paper bag (never plastic!), place the opening around your mouth and nose and breathe slowly, calmly, and deliberately so you inflate and deflate the bag. This technique also helps to calm anxiety and hyperventilation.
Drink cold water
Pour water into a glass and add a little ice so it gets really cold. Then drink it slowly in very small sips.
There are a few pressure points on your hands and wrist that can relieve hiccups. Using your thumb, place gentle pressure on the palm of your other hand for a few seconds. You can also use both your index finger and thumb to apply pressure to the front and back of your palm. Another pressure point is located on your forearm, right below your wrist. Press down for 15 seconds while breathing slowly to alleviate your symptoms.
Use the Valsalva maneuver
This technique sounds fancy but is actually simple. All you have to do is try to exhale or hold your breath without it letting it escape through your nose or mouth. Sound familiar? You probably do it when you blow your nose or try to unclog your ears. Pinch your nose while you keep your mouth closed, then try to breathe out, as if you were blowing up a balloon.
Bring your knees to your chest
Some people swear by sitting on something comfortable and hugging their knees to their chest for a few minutes to get rid of their hiccups.
Lemon and salt
Take a lemon wedge, add a bit of salt if you’d like, and then suck on the wedge. You’ll probably pucker up as a reaction to the sour taste, and the hiccups might disappear as a result.
We know that it often feels impossible to ignore hiccups, especially since they can be loud and disruptive. Trying to distract yourself with something interesting might be a good way to get rid of them.
Keep in mind: Look for something that engages you. Maybe watch a movie, do a puzzle, go outside, or play a video game. The best thing to do is fully direct your attention to something else.
Drink from the wrong side of the glass
Weird, isn’t it? But even some scientists swear by this hack. The idea is to take a water glass and drink from the opposite side that you’d normally drink. To do so, you might have to lean forward or twist your torso and hand a little to bring it toward your mouth.
Plug your ears and drink water
This method appears to be extremely effective at getting rid of the hiccups. You can find more information in this 2006 medical journal article. Fill a glass with water (a tablespoon or two will do), tightly plug your ears with your fingers, and sip the water through a straw.
Treatment with medication
Finally, there are a few medications that tend to alleviate chronic or persistent hiccups. The most effective drugs are baclofen, metoclopramide, and chlorpromazine. These tend to require a prescription.
Keep in mind: Never self-medicate! Always talk to a healthcare professional before using any drug in order to ensure correct treatment and prevent complications.
Tips to Avoid Hiccups
The best way to prevent hiccups is by determining the cause. Since this isn’t always clear, though, prevention can be tough. You can narrow down the possible cause of your hiccups and try to avoid the following:
- Drink responsibly and limit your carbonated beverage intake
- Eat slowly, avoid overeating, and stay away from foods that irritate your stomach and cause inflammation
- Try to avoid high-stress or high-anxiety situations, as hyperventilation can lead you to take in too much air, resulting in hiccups
When Should I See a Doctor?
Generally, hiccups aren’t enough cause for concern. That said, if they last more than 48 hours or become persistent or chronic, a more severe condition or illness might be the culprit.
Keep in mind: If your hiccups last an entire day, pay attention to them. Consult a doctor if your hiccups persist the following day, start to interfere with your normal activities, or last for more than 48 hours.
PODERsalud provides you and your family with specialized medical assistance, when and where you need it! With your SEP+ membership, you’ll gain access to medical consultations by phone or video, discounts from 10% to 80% on medications, and so much more.
Frequently Asked Questions
How serious are hiccups?
Mild hiccups aren’t severe or cause for concern. It’s just an involuntary muscle spasm of your diaphragm that can sometimes make a funny sound or cause slight discomfort. That said, when hiccups last more than 48 hours, they may be associated with more severe illnesses. In that case, talk with your doctor.
What happens when I have hiccups all day?
Having the hiccups throughout the day can be very annoying and interfere with your daily routine. You might experience:
- Sleep disturbances and fatigue
- Scarring problems, if you just had surgery
- Difficulty communicating
- Difficulty eating
Can I get rid of hiccups with sugar?
Mary Poppins was onto something when she said a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down! People who used sugar to get rid of hiccups have said that it’s effective. Just put a teaspoon of sugar on your tongue and leave it there for about ten seconds. Swallow the sugar and you should notice the results right away!
Keep Your Hiccups in Check!
Everyone gets hiccups once in a while. That doesn’t mean it has to cause a hiccup in your routine! With the remedies and information above, you can try plenty of methods to get rid of hiccups at home. If they persist or are frequent, you can consult with a trusted healthcare professional.Remember: SABEResPODER!