Though hiccups are generally harmless and usually go away
in a few minutes, they can be incredibly frustrating. No one
knows exactly what brings them on, why they occur nor, to
everyone's chagrin, how to get rid of them.
The longest bout of hiccups ever recorded lasted six
What exactly is a hiccup? A hiccup is a spasm (or an involuntary
contraction) of your diaphragm, a muscle at the base of your
lungs that helps with breathing. The spasm causes your vocal
cords to quickly close, which is where the "hiccup"
sound comes from.
Though hiccups can occur completely without notice, they're
more likely to occur while:
Eating a big meal (or one with spicy foods)
Drinking carbonated beverages
Feeling stressed out or excited
So How do You Get Rid of Hiccups?
The burning question on most everyone's mind when it comes
to hiccups is how to get rid of them. And while there is no
tried-and-true proven method out there, just about everyone
has a favorite remedy that they swear by.
Following is a compilation of possible hiccup cures. Some
are hearsay, others folklore, while others have actually been
published in medical journals -- and all are fair game when
it comes to battling hiccups.
1. Eat a teaspoon of granulated sugar. This was actually
published in 1971 in the New England Journal of Medicine as
a way to relieve hiccups. Some variations also include drinking
a glass of water (without stopping to take any breaths in
between) after eating the sugar.
2. Using a cotton swab, tickle the roof of your mouth
where the hard and soft palate meet. This (along with
numbers 3-9) was published in 1985 in the Journal of Clinical
Gastroenterology as a potential hiccup cure.
3. Gargle with cold water.
4. Hold your breath.
5. Eat a piece of dry bread.
In 1971, the New England Journal of Medicine published
this hiccup remedy: eating a teaspoon of granulated
6. Suck on a lemon wedge that's been soaked in bitters.
7. Compress your chest by either leaning forward or
bringing your knees up.
8. Lift your uvula (the hanging sack at the back of
your mouth) with a spoon.
9. Pull on your tongue.
10. Drink a glass of water upside down. (This is achieved
by holding the glass upright, curling your lips around the
edge of the glass and tilting your head over.) This is the
remedy that Richard McCallum, M.D., professor of medicine
and chief of the Gastroenterology Division at the University
of Virginia Health Sciences Center, uses. "I cure my
hiccups by filling a glass of water, bending over forward,
and drinking the water upside down," he says. "That
always works and I firmly recommend it for my normally healthy
11. Hold your breath and swallow. "Hold your
breath for as long as possible and swallow at the time you
feel the hiccup sensation coming," says Betty Shaver,
a lecturer on herbal and other home remedies at the New Age
Health Spa in Neversink, New York. "Do that two or three
times, then take a deep breath and repeat again. That should
12. Have someone startle you.
13. Blow in and out of a brown paper bag.
14. Stand in a doorway, stretch your arms over your head
to reach the doorframe and lean forward. Many people swear
by this method and, though no scientific studies confirm it,
say this is the most effective method.
15. Eat a spoonful of peanut butter.
16. Gently tap the center of your forehead, above your
17. Pinch the skin of your hand between your thumb and
18. Stick your fingers in your ears. This reportedly
works by stimulating branches of the vagus nerve (which connects
the brain to the abdomen and plays a role in controlling hiccups)
and distracting it with this other sensation.
19. Count backward from 100. This helps distract you
from the hiccups.
If it seems your hiccups just won't go away, remember that
everything's relative -- the longest bout of hiccups ever
recorded lasted for six decades! (And take comfort in the
fact that most people hiccup about four to 60 times a minute
for just a few minutes.)
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