How to Treat Hiccups

Three Parts:Treating Hiccups at HomeAvoiding Hiccups by Making Lifestyle ChangesKnowing When to See a Doctor

Hiccups are embarrassing and uncomfortable. They occur when the muscle at the bottom of your rib cage, called your diaphragm, spasms. Because your diaphragm controls your breathing, this forces air through your vocal cords and causes them to snap shut, producing the sharp noise. Most cases of the hiccups go away on their own after a few minutes and are nothing to worry about. Occasionally, however, they may last for more than two days and require medical treatment.[1][2]

Part 1
Treating Hiccups at Home

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    Try to change your breathing pattern. This may help your diaphragm to relax and stop spasming.[3][4]
    • Hold your breath for several seconds. It doesn’t need to be long, just enough to start a new breathing rhythm. Do not hold so long it that it starts to get uncomfortable or you feel dizzy. Children with hiccups can try this method.
    • Breathe into a paper bag. This will make you concentrate on breathing slowly and deeply, helping your diaphragm to stop spasming.
    • It is unclear whether scaring someone or startling them will actually cure the hiccups, but if it makes you gasp and change your breathing, it might.
    • Smelling salts may also help cause breathing pattern changes.
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    Soothe irritated muscles by drinking cold water. This is particularly likely to be helpful if you got the hiccups from eating too quickly. [5][6]
    • This method will also work for children. If you have an infant with the hiccups try either breast feeding or bottle feeding the baby.
    • When you feel your throat tightening as a hiccup comes on, drink small sips of water. The water will soothe your muscles and force you to change your breathing patterns as you swallow. It might not work on the first sip, so keep drinking until it does.
    • Some people say you have to drink upside down from the wrong side of the cup. While this isn’t scientifically proven, it will probably cause you (and everyone around you) to laugh, which will change your breathing pattern.
    • Gargle with cold water. This will also force you to change your breathing rhythm. But be careful not to choke if you hiccup in the middle. This is only appropriate for adults and children old enough to gargle without choking.
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    Eat a spoonful of something sweet. This will activate your salivary glands and cause you to change your breathing rhythm as you swallow.[7]
    • Use honey or sugar. But don’t give an infant honey or sugar. Infants may also get hiccups, and like hiccups in older people, they are usually harmless and will go away on their own.[8]
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    Try something sour. This will also stimulate your salivary glands and make you swallow.[9]
    • Bite into a lemon or take a spoonful of vinegar.
    • Tickling the roof of your mouth or pulling on your tongue may have a similar effect. Don't try this on an infant.[10]
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    Compress your chest. This technique hasn’t been medically tested, but it may help when you change your posture and force your diaphragm into a different position.[11]
    • Curl forward to compress your chest.
    • Or alternatively, fold your knees up into the fetal position.
    • Hold this position for a few minutes to see if it helps. If it doesn’t, straighten up and breathe deeply.
    • A child can try changing his or her position, but don't try to compress the chest of a hiccuping infant.

Part 2
Avoiding Hiccups by Making Lifestyle Changes

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    Eat slowly. Eating too fast can cause you to swallow air and disrupt your breathing patterns. [12]
    • Take smaller bites and chew your food well before you swallow.
    • Wash your food down with sips of water to prevent it from getting stuck in your throat and causing hiccups.
    • Don’t over eat.
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    Consume less alcohol and carbonated drinks. Drinking too much of either may give you hiccups.
    • Intoxication may cause hiccups.
    • Carbonated beverages make you swallow air and may irritate the muscles of your throat, causing hiccups.
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    Avoid hot and spicy foods or drinks. The temperature change and the spices may irritate your throat causing hiccups.[13][14]
    • If you really enjoy spicy foods, be sure to drink lots of water with it to help prevent or stop hiccups.
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    Reduce stress. Frequent short bouts of hiccups can be a reaction to stress or emotional excitement. If you are prone to hiccups, try some common methods to reduce stress.[15]
    • Get at least 8 hours of sleep
    • Exercise daily
    • Try meditation

Part 3
Knowing When to See a Doctor

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    Get medical attention if your hiccups last for more than 2 days or interfere with your ability to eat and sleep. If you have hiccups that don’t go away, it could be a sign of another underlying condition. Your doctor will check you for several types of conditions:[16][17]
    • Damage or irritation affecting the nerves that go to your diaphragm. Possible causes include something irritating your eardrum, a tumor, cyst, or goiter in your neck, and throat irritation or infection.
    • A nervous system disorder affecting your brain. This could make your body unable to control the hiccup reflex. Possible conditions include encephalitis, meningitis, multiple sclerosis, stroke, trauma, and tumors.
    • Metabolic disorders such as diabetes, kidney failure, or an electrolyte imbalance.
    • Respiratory problems such as asthma, pneumonia, or pleurisy.
    • Gastrointestinal disorders like gastro-esophageal reflux or inflammatory bowel syndrome.
    • Alcoholism.
    • A psychological stressor such as shock, fear, or grief.
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    Tell your doctor if you are on any medications that might be causing your hiccups. This includes:
    • Anesthesia
    • Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
    • Sedatives to prevent seizures (benzodiazepines) or prevent anxiety (barbiturates)
    • Pain medications (opioids like morphine)
    • High blood pressure medications (methyldopa)
    • Chemotherapy medications used to treat cancer
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    Know what to expect at the doctor’s office. Your doctor will probably do various tests to try to identify if you have an underlying health condition that is causing the hiccups. Your doctor will likely:[18]
    • Test your balance, reflexes, and senses.
    • Conduct a blood test to look for an infection, diabetes, and monitor your kidney function.
    • Order chest x-rays, CT scans, or an MRI to check that there are no conditions that may be interfering with the nerves going to your diaphragm.
    • Do an endoscopy to thread a tiny camera down your throat and look at the inside of your esophagus or airway.
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    Discuss treatment options with your doctor. If your doctor identifies an underlying condition, then he or she will treat you for that. If nothing is identified, there are still a few other options.[19]
    • Medications against hiccups such as chlorpromazine, haloperidol, baclofen, metoclopramide, and gabapentin. However, it is unclear how effective these medications are.[20]
    • An injection of an anesthetic to calm the phrenic nerve[21]
    • Surgically inserting a small device that stimulates the vagus nerve[22]
    • Alternative medicine techniques like hypnosis or acupuncture may also bring relief[23]

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Categories: Respiratory Health