What are Hiccups?
Hiccups are a short and reflexive tightening of the diaphragm, which is a thin muscle that is instrumental in breathing and serves as the boundary between your chest and your abdomen. Your vocal cords close immediately after each tightening, producing the typical ‘hic’ sound. Medically referred to as synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (SDF), hiccups may happen individually or in sessions. They are usually recurrent, creating a relatively continuous pause between each hiccup. If you want to know how to get rid of hiccups, keep reading.
Most people experience hiccups every so often, and they typically go away without treatment after a couple of minutes. Long or chronic hiccups that persist for a month, or even longer, are rare; those that last more than two months are called intractable hiccups. If you experience hiccups for more than 48 hours, you should seek medical attention, as they may be indicative of an underlying health condition.
In this article, we’ll outline the common causes of hiccups and discuss some practical tips to get rid of them.
What Causes Hiccups?
A wide array of underlying conditions can cause persistent or chronic hiccups. It’s still unclear how, or why, brief episodes of hiccups occur, but researchers have linked some factors with a greater risk for experiencing them.
•Consuming spicy or hot meals
•Smoking and/or chewing gum
•Drinking sodas, alcoholic drinks, and/or hot liquids
•Eating too fast
•Experiencing intense levels of stress
Hiccups usually happen suddenly and it’s difficult to determine what caused them. However, various medical conditions have been associated with chronic hiccups, including:
•Gastrointestinal conditions such as a small bowel obstruction, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
•Conditions such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI), stroke, brain tumor, or encephalitis that distress the central nervous system (CNS)
•Conditions that distress the vagus nerve such as meningitis, goiter, or pharyngitis
•Respiratory disorders such as pleurisy, asthma, and pneumonia
•Psychological reactions such as grief, anxiety, hysterical behavior, excitement, or stress
•Conditions that disturb metabolism such as hyperglycemia, diabetes, or hypoglycemia
•Liver conditions such as infection, swelling, or masses
•Kidney conditions such as renal failure
How to Get Rid of Hiccups
Hiccups can be stressful and frustrating, especially if you have to deal with them on a day-to-day basis. Below are nine tips that will help you eliminate hiccups.
Cover Your Mouth
Covering your mouth and nose with your hands while maintaining a normal breathing pattern is one of the easiest ways to stop an episode of hiccups. Breathing into a paper bag is also another great strategy. The idea in both cases is to help you get an extra dosage of carbon dioxide.
Cover Your Ears with Your Hands
The vagus nerve has branches that extend into the auditory system. The next time you experience a bout of hiccups, plug your ears with your fingers for 20–30 seconds. You can also squeeze the soft parts on the back of your earlobes, just under the bottom of the skull. This action transmits a ‘relax’ signal via the vagus nerve that reaches the diaphragm.
Suck on or Bite into a Lemon Wedge
Lemon juice has a taste that triggers a reaction similar to somebody scaring you. This reaction gets rid of an episode of hiccups quickly and effectively. If you can’t stand the bitter taste, you can sweeten the lemon wedge by sprinkling a little sugar onto it.
Stick Out Your Tongue
Sticking your tongue out stimulates the vocal cords to open. It also allows you to breathe more comfortably, suppressing the spasms that trigger hiccups.
Take Several Sips of Water
Take ten sips of water quickly. The rhythmic esophagus contractions that happen when you gulp a drink supersede the contractions of the diaphragm. Alternatively, you can cover the top of a glass with a light paper towel, and then suck through the towel.
Stimulate Your Muscles by Trying to Cough
Coughing for at least one minute may interrupt your hiccups, causing them to disappear. Cough while trying to get rid of air from your lungs in rapid sequences. Do two to three reps if the hiccups don’t disappear the first time. If possible, try to time your cough to coincide with the time you suspect the hiccup is about to come.
Avoid Drinking Carbonated or Fizzy Drinks
Carbonated or fizzy drinks contain gases that are notorious for causing hiccups. Avoiding these drinks goes a long way in eliminating persistent hiccups.
Avoid Spicy Foods and Alcohol
Spicy foods and alcoholic drinks can trigger a hiccup. If you have chronic hiccups, avoiding these items can be a long-term solution.
Seek Medical Help
If your hiccups fail to go away even after trying all the above tips, you should seek medical attention. Depending on the seriousness of the hiccups, your doctor may prescribe medication for you. Some of the prescription medications that come in handy when it comes to hiccup treatment include chlorpromazine, baclofen, and metoclopramide.
Most hiccups are short and disappear after a short period of time. In the meantime, there are various strategies you can try to eliminate your hiccups. If these remedies fail to work, seeking medical assistance from your doctor is advised.