What are Hiccups?
Hiccups are involuntary spasms of the diaphragm. They may be caused by numerous things such as minor stomach upsets with gas in the stomach trying to get up through the diaphragm, eating hot foods or the drinking of fizzy drinks as well as other possibilities.
Most cases of hiccups are gone within a few minutes and do not require any kind of medical treatment. The longest case of hiccups, however, as recorded in the Guinness Book of Records, was for over 68 years. The unfortunate man was an American, Charles Osborne.
How to Get Rid of Hiccups
Hiccups can mostly be got rid of by simply forgetting about them. Most cases of hiccups go within a few minutes. Only rarely do they last much longer or require medical treatment. The “forgetting about them” aspect may be one of the factors behind the success of the following treatments:
- Meditation. A more advanced version of forgetting about them. Meditation involves relaxing, often closing your eyes or staring at one point and emptying your mind. The easiest method of emptying your mind is to just concentrate on your breathing. Relax, sit still and breathe in deep, slow, rhythmic breaths expanding and contracting your lungs completely.
- Repeated swallowing can work for mild cases. Do this by holding your breath and repeatedly swallowing as fast as you can. You can also extend this by plugging your nose and ears then swallowing 20 times as fast as possible.
- Holding your breath or breathing into a paper bag may help by inhibiting diaphragm activity or increasing the partial pressure of Carbon Dioxide.
- Dissolving a teaspoon of sugar under the tongue was quoted as a method in a 1971 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Other food related solutions (not from the same source) include eating a tablespoon of peanut butter, taking a shot of lemon juice or eating pickles. Be careful with these ones though, the last thing you want when having a case of the hiccups is to be deep inhaling a load of lemon juice into your lungs!
- Distract yourself. Sing a song, go over your times tables, try remembering the alphabet backwards etc. until the hiccups are gone. If you have a friend who is hiccupping you can try distracting them by scaring them. This may or may not work but can be a lot of fun!
- Try exaggerating your hiccup. This might seem counter intuitive but if it works for you…
The main thing to remember is that hiccups are very common and largely harmless. The man who hiccupped for 68 years hiccupped once every ten second on average and lived till he was 97 years old. You have a number of options including relaxing, distracting yourself, holding your breath or dissolving sugar under your tongue. If you are hiccupping for an unusually long period of time (hours or days) then you be sure to consult a medical professional to be on the safe side.