Here’s how to cure the hiccups

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?

Dr. Zahid Afzal, a gastroenterologist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., explains there are many things that lead to hiccups.

“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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  1. I wanted to let others know of a remedy that works to get rid of hiccups every time I’ve tried it. An aunt of mine shared it with me about 30 years ago. Place a strong or folded up paper towel over the mouth of a glass of water sealing off the edges with your hands. Drink water directly through the paper towel. Somehow, the suction involved when doing this just once does the trick. Maybe others have heard of this.

  2. The best hiccup cure is to drink water continuously past the point where you feel like you want to breathe. It resets the rhythmic upward motion of the hiccups.

  3. Drink water through a straw while holding your ears firmly closed with your index fingers.

    Another strategy is to look at yourself in the mirror or have another person invade your personal space and maintain eye contact while DEMANDING repeatedly of you to tell them when you will hiccup again. I had a supervisor (who was a math teacher in her previous job), use this stratagem on me. Caught me completely off-guard and resolved my hiccups almost immediately so I could continue to answer the phone (main line and my extension).

  4. Place you “pointing finger” in each ear while sipping water through a straw!! WORKS EVERY TIME.. PROMISE!!

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.