Hiccups are simple enough to explain: Your diaphragm (the major muscle involved in breathing which sits like a cap over the stomach) goes into spasm. Things that promote hiccups are:

  • Eating too fast, which causes you to swallow air along with food.
  • Eating fatty foods to the point where they make the stomach full enough to irritate the diaphragm.

According to a doctor who studies hiccups, there is a hiccup center in the brain which triggers a spasm of the esophagus setting in motion the cycle leading to hiccups. This, he thinks, is a protective mechanism to keep a person from choking on food or drink. Luckily, hiccups are generally harmless and don’t last very long.

Self-Care Tips

Luckily, there’s no shortage of hiccup cures, and better still, most of them work (although some baffle medical science). A study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 1 teaspoon of ordinary table sugar, swallowed dry, cured hiccups immediately in 19 out of 20 people. (Some of whom had been hiccuping for as long as six weeks). If this doesn’t stop the hiccups right away, repeat it 3 times at 2 minute intervals. [Note: For young children, use a teaspoon of corn syrup.]

Other popular folk remedies worth trying include:

  • Hold your tongue with your thumb and index finger and gently pull it forward.
  • With your neck bent backward, hold your breath for a count of ten. Exhale immediately and drink a glass of water.
  • Breathe into and out of a paper (not plastic) bag.
  • Swallow a small amount of finely cracked ice.
  • Massage the back of the roof of your mouth with a cotton swab. A finger works equally well.
  • Eat dry bread slowly.
  • Drink a glass of water rapidly.

Questions to Ask

Do the hiccups occur with severe abdominal pain and spitting up of blood or blood in the stools?

Yes: Seek Emergency Care

Have the hiccups lasted longer than 8 hours in an adult or 3 hours in a child?

Yes: Call Doctor

Have the hiccups started only after taking prescription medicine?

Yes: Call Doctor
Provide Self-Care

Healthy Self: The Guide to Self-Care and Wise Consumerism

© American Institute for Preventive Medicine

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021