Hiccups (sometimes known as hiccoughs). They’re annoying–embarrassing–funny (at times)–and sometimes painful. And yet, all of us at one time or another, most often without any warning, are afflicted with these funny-sounding, annoying things that feel like they come from somewhere near our stomachs.
But what are they, really? Hiccups are defined as a sudden, involuntary inhalation that is stopped abruptly by the voice box closing, producing a short, sharp sound. Why this happens is almost as big a mystery as the cure. Most people seem to get hiccups when they eat too fast, swallow too much air, eat hot, spicy foods or liquids, or have an imbalance of carbon dioxide in their bloodstream.
There are thousands of “cures” (we even found some remedies in Farmers’ Almanacs from the 1800s) for the hiccups out there, some of which people swear by, and others that seem to remedy these annoying sounds for only 2 out of 10 people. The consensus is to try as many remedies as possible to find the one (or two) that works, and then keep using it!
Here are a few of the hundreds of hiccup cures we found:
- After taking a mouthful of water, place your thumbs on your ears (push them shut gently) and your pointer fingers on your nostrils (pinch them shut). Then swallow the water. Repeat, if necessary.
- Hold your breath and count to ten. If that doesn’t work, try coughing, sneezing, or gargling. This alters your air intake.
- Drink upside down! This may seem awkward, but try bending over and taking a drink of water while your head is next to your thighs.
- Drink water fast (without taking a breath between gulps).
- Breathe into a paper bag. This allows you to breathe in your own air, which contains carbon dioxide. However, don’t do this for more than a minute, as recycling your own air can cause you to blackout.
- BOO! If another person has the hiccups, help him or her break the cycle of the diaphragm contractions. Give that person something else for their body to respond to; such as a “Boo!” or “Hey, look over there!”
- Suck on crushed ice.
- Try chewing a piece of gum.
- Swallow a teaspoon of sugar.
- 1834 Farmers’ Almanac Cure—place 4 drops of cinnamon oil on a lump of sugar. Hold it in your mouth until it (sugar or hiccup) is gone.
Why do some of these unique remedies work? The general goal for a cure is to increase carbon dioxide levels in the blood or to disrupt/overwhelm the nerve impulses causing the hiccups. This is done by holding your breath, drinking upside down, eating sugar, etc. Since your body isn’t used to some of these sensations, it stops concentrating on what’s going on in your diaphragm and pays attention to the new sensation.
Most of the time, hiccups only last a few minutes, but if they persist for a long time or seem to be happening on a frequent basis, contact your health-care provider.
What’s your cure for the hiccups?