Almost everyone’s had hiccups at one time or another. While hiccups usually go away on their own within a few minutes, they can be annoying and interfere with eating and talking.
There are endless tricks people use to get rid of them, from breathing into a paper bag to eating a spoonful of sugar. But which remedies actually work?
There aren’t many studies that evaluate the effectiveness of different hiccup remedies. However, many of them are backed by centuries of anecdotal evidence. In addition, some of the most popular remedies stimulate your vagus or phrenic nerves, which are connected to your diaphragm.
Read on to learn about the most popular and effective ways to get rid of hiccups.
Hiccups happen when your diaphragm begins to spasm involuntarily. Your diaphragm is a large muscle that helps you breathe in and out. When it spasms, you inhale suddenly, and your vocal cords snap shut, which causes a distinctive sound.
In most cases, they come and go quickly. Lifestyle factors that may cause hiccups include:
- eating too much or too quickly
- carbonated drinks
- spicy foods
- being stressed or emotionally excited
- drinking alcohol
- being exposed to quick changes in temperature
These tips are meant for short bouts of hiccups. If you have chronic hiccups lasting more than 48 hours, talk with your doctor. This may be a sign of an underlying condition requiring treatment.
Breathing and posture techniques
Sometimes, a change in your breathing or posture can relax your diaphragm.
- Practice measured breathing. Disrupt your respiratory system with slow, measured breathing. Breathe in for a count of five and out for a count of five.
- Hold your breath. Inhale a large gulp of air and hold it for about 10 to 20 seconds, then breathe out slowly. Repeat as necessary.
- Breathe into a paper bag. Place a paper lunch bag over your mouth and nose. Slowly breathe in and out, deflating and inflating the bag. Never use a plastic bag.
- Hug your knees. Sit down in a comfortable place. Bring your knees to your chest and lean forward. This also compresses the chest by putting pressure on the diaphragm.
- Use the Valsalva maneuver. To do this maneuver, try to exhale while pinching your nose and keeping your mouth closed.
Pressure points are areas of your body that are particularly sensitive to pressure. Applying pressure to these points with your hands may help to relax your diaphragm or stimulate your vagus or phrenic nerves.
- Pull on your tongue. Pulling on your tongue stimulates the nerves and muscles in your throat. Grab the tip of your tongue and gently pull it forward once or twice.
- Squeeze your nose.
- Massage your carotid artery gently. You have a carotid artery on both sides of your neck. It’s what you feel when you check your pulse by touching your neck. Lie down, turn your head to the left, and massage the artery on the right side in a circular motion for 5 to 10 seconds.
Things to eat or drink
Eating certain things or changing the way you drink may also help to stimulate your vagus or phrenic nerves.
- Drink ice water. Slowly sipping cold water may help stimulate the vagus nerve.
- Suck on an ice cube. Suck on the ice cube for a few minutes, then swallow it once it shrinks to a reasonable size.
- Drink water from the “wrong” side of a glass.
- Eat some sugar. Put a pinch of granulated sugar on your tongue and let it sit for 5 to 10 seconds, then swallow.
- Suck on a lemon. Some people add a bit of salt to a lemon slice. Rinse your mouth with water to protect your teeth from citric acid.
- Put a drop of vinegar on your tongue.
A few other remedies you can try include gargling with water or sniffing smelling salts.
Most cases of hiccups go away within a few minutes or hours. If you regularly get hiccups or have hiccups that last for more than 2 days, talk with your doctor. Your hiccups could be a sign of an underlying condition, such as:
In addition, some cases of hiccups are more stubborn than others. When this happens, your doctor might prescribe medication to help them stop. Common medications for chronic hiccups include:
- baclofen (Gablofen)
- chlorpromazine (Thorazine)
- metoclopramide (Reglan)
Common cases of hiccups that are triggered by lifestyle factors can usually be prevented by making some changes to your habits. If you notice certain behaviors are causing your hiccups, here are some things to try:
- eat smaller amounts per serving
- eat slower
- avoid spicy foods
- don’t drink alcohol
- don’t smoke
- don’t chew gum
- avoid carbonated drinks
- don’t consume something cold immediately after consuming something hot
- practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation to reduce stress