Hiccups often occur suddenly and can quickly become annoying. This prompts people to try all sorts of unusual and creative ideas to get rid of them. It comes as no surprise that discussions and theories on how to treat hiccups are abundant online.
For this reason, it can make be difficult to separate the recommended methods from the old wives’ tales. Here we will focus primarily on how to get rid of hiccups.
All of the methods featured are taken from public health authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the British National Health Service (NHS).
Hiccups are medically known as synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (SDF) or singultus. In terms of physiology, a hiccup occurs when the diaphragm suddenly contracts involuntarily, and, at the same time, the voice box contracts and the vocal folds close, effectively blocking the flow of air.
Fast facts on hiccups:
- Eating or drinking too quickly often causes hiccups.
- They usually resolve on their own with no medical intervention required.
- Hiccups affect everyone, from babies to older adults.
Below are some tips and home remedies for dealing with a bout of hiccups. All of these are ideas recommended by the NHS and CDC:
Breathing and posture
- Breathe in and hold the breath for about 10 seconds, then breathe out slowly. Repeat three or four times. Then repeat 20 minutes later.
- Breathe into a paper bag – it is important to not cover the head with the bag.
- Bring the knees to the chest and hug them for 2 minutes.
- Gently compress the chest; this can be achieved by leaning forward.
Eating and drinking
- Gargle with iced water.
- Drink from the far side of the glass – stand up, bend over, and place the mouth on the opposite side of the glass. While bending, tilt the glass away from the body and drink.
- Place a couple of drops of vinegar in the mouth.
- Place some granulated sugar on the tongue. When it melts, swallow it.
- Sip very cold water slowly.
- Drink a glass of warm water very slowly, all the way down without breathing.
- Take a thin slice of lemon, place it on the tongue and suck it like a sweet.
- Burping – some people find that if they consume a fizzy drink and burp, their hiccups go away. However, some doctors warn that sodas may also trigger hiccups.
- Pull on the tongue – hold the end of the tongue in the fingers and tug. This stimulates the vagus nerve and eases diaphragm spasms, which may sometimes stop hiccups. This often does not work.
- Press on the diaphragm gently.
- Place gentle pressure on each side of the nose while swallowing.
In the vast majority of cases, hiccups go away on their own. Some say that by simply waiting and not worrying about them, the problem is likely to resolve more quickly.
If hiccups are caused by an underlying condition, treating that condition may help get rid of them.
If hiccups are persistent, a doctor may prescribe medication. This is often the case if a patient is:
- unable to eat properly and is losing weight
- sleeping abnormally or has insomnia
- displaying signs and symptoms of clinical depression
The following drugs are known to help people with persistent hiccups:
- Baclofen – a muscle relaxant.
- Chlorpromazine – an antipsychotic medication.
- Gabapentin – initially used for treating epilepsy, it is now prescribed for neuropathic pain and hiccups.
- Haloperidol – an antipsychotic medication.
- Metoclopramide (Reglan) – a medication used in the treatment of nausea.
Generally, doctors will reserve medication as a final resort having tried other options. Medications will also only be prescribed for severe and longer-term hiccups.
Certain triggers cause most cases of hiccups. Avoiding these triggers can reduce the risk of hiccups occurring; these triggers include:
- eating or drinking too quickly
- drinking alcohol
- eating spicy foods
- a sudden change of temperature in the stomach caused by eating or drinking
- extreme emotions
- swallowing air while chewing gum
If hiccups are caused by an underlying medical condition, such as GERD, treating that condition can prevent them.
For a detailed explanation of what causes hiccups, read our article here.
In the majority of cases, hiccups resolve on their own within a short period of time. Sometimes, however, they may persist and become a nuisance, impacting sleep, eating, or everyday life.
Hiccups rarely require medical treatment.
Babies often get hiccups; they are a normal part of their development. Babies are not typically disturbed by hiccups. However, hiccups can sometimes disrupt feeding and sleeping.
If the hiccups occur during a feeding, the following steps may help to get rid of them:
- changing the baby’s position
- burping the baby
- calming the baby
If the hiccups do not go away after 5-10 minutes, feeding should be resumed as this can also help. Feeding a baby when they are calm can help prevent hiccups from occurring.
If a baby gets hiccups a lot, it could be a sign of another medical condition. Caregivers should speak to a doctor if hiccups occur frequently or upset the baby.
Hiccups are a symptom in babies born addicted to drugs. It is a symptom of withdrawal or NAS (neonatal abstinence syndrome).
According to Guinness World Records, the record for hiccupping continuously is held by Charles Osborne (1892-1991), from Anthon, IA. He hiccupped continuously for 68 years, from 1922 to 1990.
While Osborne was preparing to slaughter a 300-pound hog in 1922, the animal collapsed on top of him – and so began his decades of continuous hiccupping. He had one “hic” every 10 seconds for the next 68 years.
Experts speculate that either a blood vessel in his brain which controlled an abdomen muscle popped, or that a muscle was pulled.
Osborne underwent several operations to cure his hiccups – all of them failed. He died on May 1st, 1991 from complications from ulcers. His hiccups had stopped 1 year earlier in 1990.