We've all experienced what it's like for hiccups to sneak up on us—our diaphragm spasms, our vocal cords snap shut and a squeak escapes. Sometimes we hiccup just a few times and we're done. Other times, it seems the hiccups just won't go away.
For anyone who's experienced persistent hiccups, understanding how to prevent them and get rid of them is a topic worth exploring. And it turns out, hiccups are pretty mysterious.
What causes hiccups?
Hiccups are a result of sudden, involuntary spasms of the diaphragm muscle (the muscle below our lungs that helps us breathe). Hiccups can last for a few seconds up to a few hours (and, in rare cases, have even lasted days and years!).
Most cases of hiccups are no cause for concern (although you should see your doctor if you have persistent hiccups lasting more than a few hours). The usual culprits of a hiccup fit include:
- Eating too quickly and swallowing air
- Feelings of fear or excitement
- Abdominal surgery
- Anything that irritates the diaphragm
- Eating too much or drinking too much
- Toxic fumes
- Acid reflux medications
Limiting your exposure to these activities will help prevent future hiccup fits from occurring.
How can hiccups be stopped?
Simply put, getting your diaphragm to relax should help eliminate hiccups. How to do this successfully is still up for debate; however, all of these methods are harmless and worth a try next time you find yourself with a case of the hiccups:
Eat a spoonful of peanut butter. Peanut butter's sticky quality forces you to move your mouth around, interrupting your swallowing and breathing patterns just enough to possibly get your diaphragm back on track and stop your hiccups.
Eat something really spicy. Similar to how being startled sometimes gets rid of hiccups, spicy foods distract the body in a way that could potentially break the cycle of hiccups.
Gulp water, bite a lemon, or pull on your tongue. All of these activities are thought to stimulate the vagus nerve, which serves the diaphragm muscle, and could help stop hiccups in their tracks.
Breathe slowly and deeply into a paper bag. Doing this increases carbon dioxide levels in the blood, forcing your diaphragm to contract to bring in more oxygen, which might be enough to stop the hiccups.
Using medication to get rid of hiccups
There are medications that can help alleviate hiccups; however, they are almost always used as a last resort. If you're suffering from persistent hiccups, consult with your primary care physician about treatment options and underlying medical causes.
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