What causes hiccups? How can I get rid of hiccups?
Just an annoyance in most cases, hiccups have the rare potential to become debilitating (causing exhaustion, insomnia or an inability to eat) when they continue for days or even months.
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Normal, self-limiting hiccups are triggered when the main muscle we breathe with, the diaphragm, becomes irritated and starts to spasm. But even fetuses hiccup. The source of the problem could be...
- eating or drinking too fast or too much.
- sudden change in gut temperature (perhaps from drinking hot coffee or ice-cold soda).
- drinking carbonated or alcoholic beverages (though hiccups are not a reliable indicator of alcohol consumption).
- swallowing too much air (perhaps from chewing gum, smoking or wearing loose dentures).
- experiencing sudden emotional stress or excitement.
- taking certain chemotherapy, heart or anxiety medications.1
While experts don't consider periodic hiccups lasting up to 48 hours to be abnormal2, longer lasting hiccups may be a symptom of variety of severe diseases.
How to get rid of hiccups
Most of the remedies you've heard of have at least some basis of logic behind them and, at the worst, are harmless. So, while there is no known, foolproof cure for "normal" hiccups (baring any underlying medical condition) at this time, the following are worth a try:
- holding your breath or breathing into a paper bag.
- having someone scare you.
- swallowing ice cubes or a spoon full of sugar.
- biting on a lemon.
- pulling on your tongue.
- drinking water while bending upside down.
- drinking from the far side of a cup.
- gargling ice water.
- simply allow time for the hiccups to pass on their own.