Hiccups: Which Remedies Work?

“Drink some water upside-down—that’ll help.”

“Close your eyes. I’ll scare you!”

“Have you tried spinning on your head while singing the national anthem? I heard that helps.”

Just about everyone has experienced hiccups at some point in their life. It’s a familiar feeling—you’re drinking a soda and all of the sudden, hic! You can feel your breath catch in your chest and your shoulders rise and fall, for reasons unknown to you. There are dozens of home remedies for hiccups, though how many of them are actually effective?

What are hiccups?

Hiccups (or singultus) are an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm. This contraction causes the vocal cords to snap shut—hence the “hic” sound. Usually bouts of hiccups last for no more than a few minutes, and can be caused by drinking carbonated drinks, eating large meals, or any sudden excitement [1].

There are a number of complex processes that are believed to go into hiccups, but only a basic understanding of them is necessary to rid yourself of the hiccups.

The goal is to interrupt the sensory communication to the brain that is causing the hiccup response. One method that is believed to create this interruption is nasopharyngeal stimulation [2].

Naso-what now?

The nasopharynx is the part of the throat behind the mouth and above the esophagus.

A number of home remedies are thought to effectively stimulate this area and interrupt that hiccup response—ending your uncomfortable hiccupping.

These methods include:

Gargling water

Drinking from the far side of a glass

Sipping ice water

Biting a lemon

As weird as they may seem, there is actually a physiological basis in many of these home remedies.

So the next time you find yourself down with a bad case of the hiccups, grab a glass of water. You’ll be over your hiccup attack in no time.

[1] “Hiccups.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 6 Aug. 2015. Web. 18 Aug. 2016.

[2] Paul W Kolodzik, Mark A Filers, Hiccups (Singultus): Review and approach to management, Annals of Emergency Medicine, Volume 20, Issue 5, 1991, Pages 565-573, ISSN 0196-0644.

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