What are hiccups? Most of us have experienced them at some point in our lives, but what exactly are they?
A hiccup is an involuntary spasm of the diaphragm, the muscle at the base of your lungs. They cause you to make a “hic” sound as air is suddenly drawn into your throat.
Hiccups are usually temporary and harmless. Occasionally, however, persistent hiccups can last for days, or even weeks, causing a great deal of discomfort. For those people with hiccups it can be a significant lifestyle handicap.
So if you want to know how to get rid of hiccups, it’s important to understand what hiccups are first.
Causes of hiccups
Hiccups are an annoying and inconvenient occurrence that can strike at any time. But why exactly do we get hiccups? What causes them? Well, the truth is, the exact cause of hiccups is not known.
It’s thought that a sudden change in the diaphragm muscle, the muscle that helps with breathing, could be the cause. This change in the diaphragm leads to a sudden intake of air which causes the “hic” sound.
Other causes could be eating or drinking too quickly, having an overly full stomach, as well as excitement, stress, or abdominal surgery.
But whatever the cause may be, getting rid of hiccups can be a challenge.
Types of hiccups
Most people may not be aware there are different types of hiccups.
Firstly, there are the common hiccups, which generally last between a few minutes and a few hours. These are often caused by eating or drinking too quickly.
More rarely, there are cases of chronic hiccups, which can last up to a few days, and even months in some cases.
And then there are the less common but much more formidable cases of vocal cord hiccups, where the hiccups are caused by the vocal cords spasming. These can be very difficult to get rid of and will usually require medical assistance.
So, as you can see, there are various types of hiccups, ranging from the annoying but fairly benign ones to the more severe, persistent cases.
Home Remedies to Get Rid of Hiccups
Drinking a glass of water
You have probably heard of the old trick to get rid of hiccups: drink a glass of water. It’s an ageless claim, but does it actually work?
Well, according to some experts, yes. Drinking a glass of water helps because it distracts your diaphragm from spasming. Plus, the sensation of swallowing may help relax the muscle that is causing the hiccups.
But how quickly will this method work? That depends on how severe your hiccups are, since severe hiccups may require more than just a glass of water. However, if you drink slowly and keep sipping, eventually the hiccups should subside. Drinking too fast may actually make your body hiccup more.
Holding your breath
Have you ever tried using the classic “hold your breath” method to get rid of hiccups? It sounds like a simple solution, and in fact it turns out it might not be that far from the truth.
But exactly how does this work?
The idea is simple: by holding your breath for as long as you comfortably can, you essentially “startle” your body into forgetting about the hiccups.
Of course, there’s no guarantee it will work. Everyone’s body responds differently. But if this method does not work for you, there are plenty of other methods you can try.
Eating a spoonful of sugar
The idea behind this approach is that eating something sweet gives your body something else to focus on other than the hiccup reflex.
There is not much scientific evidence that this will necessarily help trick your body into stopping hiccuping, but many people have said they find it helpful. It is an easy enough solution to try, so for those who find water on its own not enough, this is an interesting potential remedy.
Gargling with warm water
Have you ever tried gargling with warm water to get rid of hiccups? It sounds strange, and it is not something many people enjoy doing, but give it a try and you might just be surprised.
It works through heat, as the warmth can have a calming effect on the throat muscles that are triggering the hiccupping.
Sipping on cold drinks
Sipping on a cool beverage can help get rid of hiccups due to the sensation of the cold water on the back of your throat. This works through the swallowing reflex helping to reset the diaphragm and put an end to hiccuping.
So, if you’re looking for a way to get rid of hiccups, why not give it a try? Sip on some ice water or another cold beverage and see if it helps.
Medical Treatments for Hiccups
Have you ever had hiccups that just won’t go away? Some people swear by simpler methods and what we might call ‘old wives’ tales’, but often those don’t work for everyone.
Fortunately, there are medications available that can help get rid of your hiccups quickly. But how do you know which one to use?
Well, there are a few different over-the-counter medications that can help with hiccups.
For instance, an antacid like bismuth subsalicylate, or an antihistamine like diphenhydramine, can help reduce acid reflux and an irritable stomach, which is sometimes a cause of hiccups.
Additionally, you can speak to your doctor to see if they recommend a stronger medication, such as chlorpromazine, which can help address whatever underlying issue is causing your hiccups in the first place.
So if you’re looking for a way to get rid of your persistent hiccups, consider talking to your doctor about medications that may be able to help.
This might seem extreme as an option. Is surgery really the answer to getting rid of hiccups?
On the one hand, you may be thinking that surgery is a drastic measure and wouldn’t even be an option. But the reality is that it remains an option for some, though admittedly a relatively extreme treatment. But, when all other methods have failed, it could be worth considering.
Surgery involves removing a part of the phrenic nerve, which is responsible for the hiccup reflex. However, this method has its own risks, complications, and potential side effects, so always make sure to discuss this option with your doctor before considering it.
The reality is that such treatments are only ever very rarely necessary.
Have you ever considered nerve stimulation to get rid of hiccups? Of course, this method requires some caution. But it can be incredibly effective in helping to reduce or eliminate hiccups.
The idea is to stimulate the vagus nerve, located in the neck, which sends signals to the brain telling it to stop the hiccuping. This can be done by pressing down with your finger for a few seconds over the ‘hiccup area’ of the neck – just below the Adam’s apple and next to the windpipe. As with all such self-administered treatments, be careful and research the best techniques online or talk to a medical professional to be certain.
Alternatively, you can try ‘gargling furiously’. The sound waves generated from this action will also help to stimulate the vagus nerve.
These techniques are not commonly used, as most people’s hiccups are cured with a simpler method, but it is certainly worth bearing these methods in mind in cases of persistent hiccups.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy might sound like an odd solution, but it really can work.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a form of psychotherapy in which a person learns to challenge and change negative thinking patterns, feelings, and behaviors that are causing distress.
It’s often used to help people with anxiety, depression, and phobias, but it can also be applied to hiccups. By using CBT techniques, you can learn to control your automatic responses to the physical sensations of hiccups, helping to lessen or even eliminate them entirely.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Uncontrollable hiccuping lasting more than 48 hours
Have you ever suffered from hiccups that simply won’t go away no matter what you try? Uncontrollable hiccuping lasting more than 48 hours is a condition known as persistent hiccups. This type of hiccuping can be very distressing and sometimes even physically debilitating.
It’s important to seek medical advice if you suffer from persistent hiccups, as it could be an indication of an underlying health issue. Treatment options vary depending on the cause of the hiccups, and might include medication, nerve blocks, or even dietary changes.
In rare cases, hiccups may last longer than 48 hours with no clear cause. If this is the case, the most effective treatment is to make lifestyle modifications such as getting plenty of rest, avoiding stress, and eating small, frequent meals. It is sometimes the case that dietary habits have influenced whether we hiccup or not.
Hiccups that cause pain and discomfort
Hiccups can be more than just an annoyance. They can cause stabbing or aching sensations in your chest, stomach, and back, as well as leading to difficulty with breathing. Occasionally, the contractions of hiccups can be so strong that it causes significant pain.
If your hiccups are causing you pain, it could be due to various factors such as acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or even a kidney or gall bladder infection. You should always speak to a medical professional if you experience any sort of pain or discomfort associated with your hiccups.
In the meantime, there are a few home remedies you can try to get rid of your uncomfortable hiccups. These include drinking a glass of cold water, eating a teaspoon of sugar, or even holding your breath for a while.
No matter what method you use to rectify them, if your hiccups are causing you notable pain and are not susceptible to relatively simple treatment, contact your doctor for advice.
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
You may sometimes have had a case of the hiccups that was so bad that it left you short of breath, or perhaps feeling like you couldn’t catch your breath easily. This type of hiccuping can be notably uncomfortable.
But why does hiccuping sometimes cause shortness of breath or difficulty breathing?
The short answer is that hiccups can cause a temporary interruption of your normal breathing pattern. When this happens, it can cause your oxygen level to drop and can leave you feeling out of breath.
Usually, it is only temporary and your breathing will return to normal once the hiccups have gone. If you continue to feel breathless even after the hiccups have gone, however, you may be wise to seek further medical advice.