Why do we hiccup? Most of us deal with them on a regular basis. We get them when we drink or eat too fast, or when we take medication. Sometimes we even get them for reasons unbeknownst to us. But what is a hiccup really? The National Institute of Health explains this mystery in detail, but to put it simply: hiccups occur when there is a sudden contraction of the diaphragm resulting in an immediate closure of the larynx. The sudden rush of air into the lungs from the contraction creates a “hic” sound.
If that explanation still leaves you blinking, not to worry. Here are some fast facts about hiccups and some remedies that will give you a little more insight into an occurrence we are all too familiar with, yet can’t quite explain.
Hiccups are a self-limited disorder
Most hiccups only last a few minutes and can occur for a variety of reasons including food and beverage intake, change in medication and type of food. However, prolonged cases aren't uncommon. If you are experiencing hiccups for a period longer than 48 hours, schedule an appointment with your doctor to find out what's going on.
Extreme cases of hiccups can be medically treated
If your hiccups last for more than two days, there may be a chance that it’s not the result of something you ate. There are specific medications that can be used to treat long-term hiccupping; however, you should always speak to a doctor before starting any form of treatment.
Try putting pressure on your diaphragm
Although there is no actual "cure" for getting rid of hiccups, this is a method that may help. Use your fingers to press gently on your diaphragm (below the breastbone and between the ribs) and breathe out slowly. Try this for a few breaths until you notice the hiccupping subside.
Pull your knees to your chest
Some people have found that bringing your knees to your chest compresses it, and can help get rid of hiccups. However, this technique is not scientifically proven and therefore only works on a case-by-case basis. Other variations of posture and breathing related remedies include breathing into a paper bag and holding your breath for 10 seconds repeatedly.
Drink ice-cold water
This a most common and easiest technique to try to stop hiccups. Sipping on cold water helps soothe the phrenic nerve near the esophagus and regulates its movement. If sipping ice water doesn't do the trick, try drinking a glass quickly.
Down a spoonful of sugar
Yeah, maybe not the healthiest option, but it really does work (for some people). This shock tactic stimulates the cranial vagus nerve, which sends sensory information to the brain about the functioning of body organs. Sugar serves as a distraction that tells the brain that there's something else to focus on, thus stopping the diaphragm spasms.
There are ways to prevent hiccups
If you get hiccups regularly, there may be a few ways to avoid getting them in the future. Try eating and drinking slowly, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes, and regulating the temperature of the foods you consume. In other words, try to avoid rapidly switching between hot and cold foods.
As annoying as hiccups are, unfortunately, they are here to stay. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to get rid of them. Keep in mind, when researching remedies, it's always better to err on the safe side and consult a doctor if your hiccups persist for more than a few minutes.
Do you have any tips for getting rid of hiccups?
Leave a comment below!
About the AuthorMore Content by Providence Health Team