A hiccup, also known as synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (SDF) or singultus, is an uncontrollable contraction of the diaphragm (the muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen) that may repeat several times per minute.
As the diaphragm contracts, it causes you to breathe air in very quickly, followed by a sudden closure of your vocal cords. This produces the characteristic sound of a hiccup.
Hiccups may occur individually or in bouts. For most people, a bout of hiccups lasts only a few minutes. Rarely, hiccups may persist for hours. Usually, the sound of a hiccup is the only sign. However, at times one can experience a slight tightening sensation in the chest, abdomen or throat.
Most often, hiccups occur due to drinking carbonated beverages or excessive alcoholic beverages, overeating, eating too quickly, eating very spicy foods, some kind of excitement or emotional stress, smoking, sudden change in the room temperature and swallowing air while chewing or eating something.
Long-term hiccups that last for hours can be due to some nerve damage or irritation, respiratory conditions, central nervous system disorders due to a tumor or infection, gastrointestinal conditions, metabolic disorders or certain medications.
It can also be triggered by alcoholism, anesthesia, barbiturates, diabetes, electrolyte imbalance, kidney failure, steroids and tranquilizers.
Hiccups can be annoying and embarrassing when in public. In general, a bout of hiccups will go away without any treatment. However, there are many home remedies that can help stop hiccups.
You can shock your system with cold water to stop hiccups. Any kind of shock will cause distraction and will help put your hiccups to rest.
- Quickly drink a glass of cold water with honey in it and your hiccups will go away immediately.
- You can also gargle with cold water for 1 minute to keep hiccups at bay.
- Another option is to suck on a small piece of ice for a few seconds.
Drink Upside Down
Drinking a glass of cold water can shock your body and stop hiccups. But this remedy can be made more effective by drinking the water upside down.
- Fill a glass with cold water.
- Bend down at the waist and put your head down.
- Drink the water from the opposite side of the glass than you would normally.
- If required, repeat again.
Hold Your Breath
Holding your breath is an age-old cure for hiccups. It increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, which distracts the mind and stops the cycle of hiccups.
- Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can without letting any air out.
- Exhale gently in a controlled manner.
- Inhale and hold your breath again.
- Do this for several cycles until the hiccups stop.
Brown Sugar (not the cocoaine brown sugar) is a great home remedy for hiccups, especially for small children who cannot effectively complete the two remedies described above. Swallowing sugar stimulates the vagus nerve and makes the body forget all about the hiccups.
- Fill 1 teaspoon with brown sugar.
- Hold the spoon in your mouth for 5 seconds.
- Allow the sugar to dissolve slowly without chewing it.
- Take a sip of water and the hiccups will stop.
Vinegar is another effective remedy to stop hiccups. Its sour taste helps distract the mind, which helps stop the hiccups. White vinegar, malt vinegar or apple cider vinegar will do the trick.
- Swallow 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar, followed by a glass of water.
- Another option is to mix 1 teaspoon of vinegar with a little water. Swallow it slowly and the hiccups will stop.
Another age-old remedy to keep hiccups at bay is peanut butter. The sticky, gooey consistency of peanut butter interrupts the breathing pattern when you try to swallow it and this helps stop continuous hiccups.
- Put 1 teaspoon of peanut butter in your mouth.
- Hold it for a few seconds, then swallow it without chewing.
- If required, drink a glass of water.
If peanut butter is not available, you can use almond butter.
Breathe into a Paper Bag
Another time-tested trick that may help hiccup sufferers is breathing into a paper bag. This increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the body, making the diaphragm contract more deeply to bring in more oxygen. This helps stop the hiccups.
- Tightly press a small paper bag around your mouth.
- Breathe slowly and deeply into it.
- Repeat this several times, while keeping the brown paper bag in place.
Lemon is a sure way to stop hiccups mid-stream. The sour taste of lemon overwhelms the irritated nerves, thus making the hiccups disappear.
- Put 1/2 teaspoon of undiluted lemon juice in your mouth. The overpowering taste will compel you to swallow it hard and the hiccups will stop immediately.
- Another option is mix the juice of one lemon in half a glass of water. Drink it quickly to stop hiccups.
- You can also put a little salt on a small piece of lemon and then suck the juice out of the lemon slowly.
Cardamom is also an effective remedy for hiccups. It has muscle-relaxing properties and hence can stop hiccups.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of cardamom powder in a glass of hot water.
- Set it aside for 15 minutes and then strain it.
- Drink it slowly.
- You can sing or laugh loudly to distract your mind and stop hiccups.
- Drink a small amount of a fizzy beverage to induce a burp to help the hiccups go away.
- Hold the end of your tongue with your fingers and tug. This eases diaphragm spasms and stops hiccups.
- Use a cotton swab to tickle the soft palate of the roof of your mouth.
- Put your fingers in your ears and breathe deeply for a few seconds.
- Chew a small piece of ginger slowly to fight hiccups.
- Drink alcoholic beverages only in moderation as they can damage the lining of the food pipe, which may result in frequent hiccups.
- Avoid eating in a hurry. Take your time, chewing your food properly and eating slowly.
- Avoid overeating as it is a common cause of hiccups.
- Avoid spicy foods that can irritate the lining of the esophagus and stomach. This in turn can cause hiccups.
- Cup your hands around your nose and mouth, but continue breathing normally.
- Hold your nose and close your mouth for as long as you can or until you sense that the hiccups are gone.