Hiccups are annoying, especially when they happen at inconvenient times. Fortunately, they will usually disappear naturally within a few minutes or two hours at most.
But if the hiccups don't go away, there are many creative ways that people have come up with to try and get rid of them. Most of them are anecdotal or may only temporarily relieve symptoms, but some of the natural remedies can be effective.
This article will cover what you need to know about how to get rid of hiccups, what causes them, and how to prevent them from occurring. We will also cover causes and treatments for hiccups in babies.
What Causes Hiccups
Hiccups are caused by involuntary contractions in the diaphragm muscle. This is one of the main muscles involved in breathing. The contraction occurs when the diaphragm relaxes and then contracts again, causing you to inhale suddenly and rapidly closing the vocal cords. That leads to the characteristic "hic" sound that we all know.
- Drinking hot liquids
- Eating a large meal
- Eating too quickly
- Drinking carbonated beverages
- Eating spicy foods
- Drinking alcohol
- Strong emotions, like stress and excitement
- Certain medical conditions that irritate the diaphragm, like acid reflux
How to Get Rid of Hiccups
There are several methods that people use to try and stop the hiccups. Some of these methods work better than others, so it's important to find out which ones work best for you.
One method that has been used for centuries is acupressure therapy. It involves applying pressure on certain points on your body.
Here are acupressure pressure points for hiccups to stimulate and self-massage for potential relief:
- Triple Energizer 17 (TE 17), also known as the Wind Screen. This pressure point is found in the depression behind the earlobe.
- Conception Vessel 15 (CV 15), also called the Bird Tail. It's located on the upper part of the abdomen and below the sternum.
- Pericardium 6 (PC 6 or P 6), or the Inner Frontier Gate. This acupressure point is located 3 finger widths from the wrist crease from the inside of your wrist and forearm.
Other things you can try that involve applying gentle pressure and massage stimulation to get rid of hiccups:
- Press lightly on your diaphragm.
- Gently grab and pull the tip of your tongue forward.
- Squeeze each side of your nose while drinking a glass of water. The swallowing will help.
- Apply pressure to each palm. Squeeze by using the thumb of your other hand.
- Gently massage each carotid artery. While lying down, turn your head to the right and gently massage the left carotid artery in a circular motion for 5-10 seconds. Then turn left and massage the right carotid artery.
What to Eat or Drink
Another common way to try and get rid of hiccups is to eat or drink certain things.
- Suck on an ice cube. Don't bite on the cube, but rather suck on it and let it naturally melt.
- Slowly sip ice water. This might help to stimulate your vagus nerve.
- Gargle with ice water for 30 seconds.
- Place some granulated sugar on your tongue. Let the sugar rest for 5-10 seconds and swallow.
- Place a couple of vinegar drops on the tongue.
- Bite and suck on a lemon slice. Be sure to rinse your mouth out with water afterwards to prevent the citric acid from damaging your teeth.
Changing your breathing technique or body position can help stimulate the vagus nerve to get rid of your hiccups.
- Breathe in, hold for 10 seconds, breathe in two more times, and then exhale.
- Breathe in and hold, while swallowing three times.
- Breathe in and hold for about 20 seconds, then exhale slowly.
- Breathe deeply and slowly. Breathe in for 5 seconds and breathe out for 5 seconds.
- Breathe with a paper bag. Breathe in and out slowly with a paper bag over your nose and mouth.
- Bring your knees to the chest and hug your knees. Find a comfortable place to do this and hold for a couple of minutes while breathing.
- Compress the chest and breathe. Bending or leaning forward will compress the chest and put pressure on the diaphragm.
- Try the valsalva maneuver. Hold your breath while pinching your nose, then try to exhale. It's as if you're trying to pop stuffy ears.
How to Prevent Hiccups
Hiccups can be very annoying, especially when they happen at night before bed. They can also cause embarrassment and make you feel uncomfortable when out in public. But there are ways to avoid them altogether.
If you get hiccups regularly, make note of what you were doing right before you started hiccupping. That will help you find specific triggers for yourself.
Here are some tips to prevent hiccups:
- Drink and eat at a slower pace.
- Eat less per meal, being careful not to overeat.
- Avoid carbonated beverages.
- Avoid or drink less alcohol.
- Avoid eating spicy foods.
- Avoid smoking.
Medication for Hiccups
There are medications that can help treat chronic hiccups. Your doctor may recommend one of these medications depending on your condition and symptoms:
- Baclofen (Lioresal) is a muscle relaxant.
- Chlorpromazine (Thorazine) is an antipsychotic.
- Haloperidol (Haldol) treats mental and mood disorders.
- Gabapentin (Neurontin) treats seizures and nerve pain in the legs.
- Metoclopramide (Reglan) is an anti-nausea medication.
Babies regularly experience hiccups. Don't worry though because hiccups don't usually harm the baby and are completely normal.
Causes of Baby Hiccups
When babies start to hiccup, it's because their diaphragm has been irritated, causing the vocal cords to close quickly.
Baby hiccups are usually caused by gas build up due to feeding too fast or overfeeding. Babies will often swallow or gulp air while feeding and that causes their stomach to expand. The stomach can then rub up against the diaphragm and lead to hiccups.
How to Get Rid of Baby Hiccups
There are a few ways to help get rid of baby hiccups and prevent them.
- Feed slowly. The best way to stop baby hiccups is to feed your baby slowly. If you have trouble breastfeeding, use a bottle instead.
- Burp during feedings. Burping the baby while feeding will help to release excess gas buildup.
- Feed from a more upright position. Lying flat while feeding will allow more air to be sucked in. Prevent this by feeding the baby in a more upright position.
- Ensure a tighter seal of the mouth during feeding. Check the baby's mouth and its seal around the nipple. A good seal will help to prevent excess air to be taken in.
- Give the baby a pacifier. A baby sucking on a pacifier can help to relax the diaphragm and get rid of newborn hiccups.
When to See a Doctor
Hiccups will usually go away on their own after a few minutes or hours. However, if they last longer than 48 hours, see your doctor.
If you have other symptoms with the hiccups like abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, fever, or feel that your throat is tightening and closing up, you should seek medical attention.
Prolonged hiccups and/or other symptoms can be signs of something more serious and an underlying condition, including:
- Acid reflux, Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
- Multiple Sclerosis
The sooner you see a doctor about chronic hiccups, the better. Chronic hiccups can disrupt your daily life, eating, and sleeping. It's important to ensure that you get checked to see if there's anything else going on that's causing the hiccups.
Is Hiccupping Dangerous?
No, most hiccups aren't dangerous, just annoyances. They're generally harmless and won't cause any damage to your body. However, if you start experiencing other symptoms and/or your hiccups have lasted more than 48 hours, you should see your doctor immediately.
What Is the Purpose of Hiccups?
Hiccups are involuntary muscle spasms that happen when the diaphragm contracts. That leads to your vocal cords closing up. So when air is released from your lungs, that causes the "hic" sounds we're all familiar with. There's no real purpose to hiccups other than disrupting our quality of life. But if you have chronic hiccups, it could be signs of an underlying condition.
What Is the World Record for the Longest Hiccups?
The World Record for the longest hiccup attack is held by Charles Osborne when he started hiccupping in 1922 and didn't stop until 1990. He was estimated to have had about 430 million hiccups over the 68 years.
Can You Hiccup in Your Sleep?
Yes, you can still experience hiccups while you sleep. They can disrupt your sleep and wake you up, making it hard for you to have a good night's sleep. One study showed hiccups penetrating all stages of sleep.
How Long Will I Have Hiccups?
Hiccups will usually disappear after a few minutes or within a couple of hours. If you have them for over 48 hours, however, see your doctor to diagnose potential underlying conditions. Trying the natural remedies suggested in this article can help with getting rid of hiccups.
- Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-get-rid-of-hiccups
- WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/hiccups-treatment
- Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/9896
- Health.com: https://www.health.com/condition/digestive-health/how-to-get-rid-of-hiccups
- Cleveland Clinic: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/heres-what-to-do-when-your-baby-has-the-hiccups/
- WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/baby/what-to-do-if-your-baby-has-hiccups
- TCM Tips: https://tcmtips.com/5-handy-acupressure-points-for-hiccups-that-you-can-use-anywhere/