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Editorial

How to Get Rid of Hiccups

Last Updated March 3, 2021

By  Janice Warren

So, you are struggling with hiccups lately, and you wonder what you can do to get rid of them? The best place to start is first to understand what hiccups are; the sudden and involuntary movement/ contraction/ spasm of your diaphragm muscle that forces shut your vocal cords, thereby producing the annoying and uncomfortable hiccup sound.

What Are the Causes of Hiccups?

When you want to remedy your hiccups in a short time, it is important to understand what causes them in the first place. The most common causes of hiccups include;

  1. Eating too fast. When you eat so fast, you tend to chew food too fast, thus swallowing air with the food.
  2. Consuming many fats, spices, or any food or drink can distend your stomach to irritate the diaphragm.
  3. Inhaling pungent or noxious fumes can also interfere with your oxygen intake to cause diaphragm unrest.
  4. Drastic temperature changes can also trigger hiccups.
  5. In some cases, excitement or fear can also lead to hiccups when you pay little attention to your breathing.
  6. Underlying medical conditions like liver disease could irritate the nerves around the diaphragm.
  7. Recent surgical treatment could interfere with vital diaphragm nerves such as the vagus nerve and the phrenic nerve.
  8. In severe cases, tumors and strokes could also irritate nerves that control the diaphragm.
  9. Some types of medication can also cause hiccups, e.g. medicines for acid reflux and more.

Symptoms of Hiccups

The only symptom of hiccups is the sudden spasms of the diaphragm muscle that produces the hiccup sound.

How to Get Rid of Hiccups at Home

In most cases, hiccups are relatively harmless and will resolve themselves in a short period, but this is not to say they don't persist. Sometimes, even when they last a few minutes, they can affect your comfort and productivity, which is why you need a few tricks to suppress them.

The following are some tips on how to get rid of hiccups at home.

1. Breathing techniques

  1. Holding your breath for as long as you don't strain is one way to relieve the hiccups. When you hold your breath, the body retains carbon dioxide, which relaxes the diaphragm muscle, thus stopping your hiccups.
  2. Breathe into a paper bag to recycle the air and reduce oxygen. Remember not to use a plastic bag as it can cause suffocation.
  3. Try the Valsalva maneuver; try exhaling with your nose pinched and your mouth closed. Try exhaling slowly and gently, as this method could cause injury.
  4. Measure your breathing. Practiced breathing patterns can help stop hiccups because it interferes with how your respiratory system works. You can try inhaling slowly for five seconds and also exhaling slowly for five seconds.

2. Stimulate the vagus nerve and the nasopharynx to stop hiccups

The vagus nerve's role is to transmit signals from the digestive system to the brain and back. Since hiccupping is a digestive anomaly, it is vital you stimulate this cranial nerve to decrease the hiccups.

These are some harmless methods you can use at home as hiccup remedies;

  1. Drink a glass of water fast. You can get the best relief when you drink the water from the opposite side of the glass. This method is ideal because it forces you to tilt your head far ahead while bending your body a little to stretch and contract your abdomen muscles.
  2. Get someone to frighten you. While there is a need to be careful when scaring someone, being frightened can be a hiccup remedy because it will force your body to activate its stress response, thus jumpstarting the breathing system to stop your hiccup discomfort.
  3. Gargle with ice water to restart your breathing.
  4. Place some granulated sugar on your tongue and swallow when it melts.
  5. Suck on a slice of lemon. The sour taste of lemon juice will make you swallow hard, which can stop hiccupping.
  6. Drink a fizzy drink like soda to force you to burp. Only use this method if you don't have recurring hiccups or chronic hiccups, as the soda can increase the hiccups.
  7. Drink warm water slowly without breathing to conserve carbon dioxide.
  8. Ingest a spoonful of honey or peanut butter. Since these foods are thick, they take longer to swallow, which decreases oxygen intake to decrease or stop hiccups.
  9. Swallow a small-sized ice cube to activate your body's emergency response, thus stopping your hiccups.

3. Using gentle pressure

  1. Applying gentle pressure on the diaphragm muscle can also stop hiccups. Apply pressure to the end of your sternum using one hand to increase airflow and thus reduce spasm.
  2. Pull on your tongue gently. While this method is tricky to master, if done correctly, it can ease your diaphragm spasms, thus stopping hiccups.
  3. When swallowing a drink or food, use a finger to apply gentle and temporary pressure to each side of the nose to reduce oxygen intake. This method helps the body abandon other operations to focus on taking in oxygen to stop hiccups in the process.
  4. Sitting, pull your knees and hug them with both arms to apply gentle pressure on your abdomen.
  5. Apply pressure on your palm using a thumb from the other hand.
  6. Massage your carotid arteries found on each side of your neck. Do so in circular motions for at least 5 to 10 seconds at a time.

When to See a Doctor for Persistent Hiccups

If you have tried all these home remedies and none work, you can decide to give your hiccups a few minutes or hours to see if they will resolve by themselves. However, it is essential to note that hiccups can be signaling underlying problems that require medical advice.

If you suffer persistent hiccups for more than a few days, it is good to visit a doctor who will evaluate your health information.

In severe cases, you may suffer intractable hiccups (hiccups that last more than a month) that require serious medical attention, and which your doctor will use to evaluate your overall health, from any underlying illnesses to problems with your nervous system. Intractable hiccups can dramatically decrease your productivity and quality of life.

Janice Warren


Janice is a full-time writer at Infantcore, writing about her experiences as mother of 4.

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