Here’s how to cure the hiccups
We’ve all experienced it – you’re going about your day and are suddenly overcome with an incessant bout of hiccups. Where did they come from, and how in the world do you get rid of them?
“The top causes for most people would be carbonated beverages, caffeine, alcohol, acid reflux/GERD, eating too fast or too much and chewing gum (swallowing air.) Stress can also precipitate hiccups, as well,” he says.
There are steps you can take to prevent a normal case of the hiccups, says Dr. Afzal. “It’s ideal to change behaviors that precipitate them. Although they are usually a temporary nuisance, you can minimize them by eating slowly and sitting up during meals. Avoid carbonated beverages and alcohol with meals.”
Dr. Afzal says a good rule of thumb is to fill your stomach one-third of the way with food, one-third with water and leave one-third space for air and digestion, as overeating can cause hiccups.
He offers the following tips for getting rid of a case of the hiccups:
- Hold your breath
- Bear down (Valsalva maneuver)
- Breathe into a bag
- Gargle ice water
- Swallow a teaspoon of dry sugar (may work well for children)
- Place light pressure on the eyeballs (“This is an uncommonly known maneuver!”)
But Dr. Afzal says your hiccups may even be associated with serious, life-threatening disorders, including central nervous system problems (strokes, meningitis, head trauma, multiple sclerosis); various cancers; gastrointestinal disorders (acid reflux, ulcers, pancreatitis, gastric cancer, gallbladder disease); heart attacks; and metabolic disorders (diabetes, kidney problems, and electrolyte imbalances).
He recommends you look out for hiccup persistence – hiccups that don’t go away, are returning frequently and/or lasting longer each case.
“A vast majority of cases are of no clinical significance; however, persistent and frequent hiccups warrant investigation. At times, your family may notice, as well. This is the time to seek help,” Dr. Afzal says.
If you are suffering from persistent hiccups, make an appointment with your primary care physician. Patients are often referred to a gastroenterologist because hiccups are most commonly related to GI disorders such as acid reflux. If you have other associated signs or symptoms, your primary physician may refer you to the appropriate specialist.
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About the Author
Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove. She earned her BA in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks and playing with her cats, Demi and Elle.