A hiccup or hiccough is a contraction of the muscle separating the chest and abdomen (called the diaphragm) that repeats several times per minute. In humans, the abrupt rush of air into the lungs causes the "hic" sound. It is caused by irritation of the vagus nerves or phrenic nerves, which serve the diaphragm muscle.
Hiccups often occur during emotional stress or after drinking carbonated drinks or alcohol. Prolonged laughter is also known to cause hiccups.
If they last less than a few days (usually less than 10-15 minutes), they are normal and the trick is to make them go away (there are 2 very effective tips, and one less recommended approach described in the Treatment section). Hiccups that last over 48 hours can suggest an underlying medical problem that should be evaluated by a physician. While ruling out more worrisome problems, be sure the doctor also looks into your ears and removes any hairs or other matter that might be touching the eardrum, as this can also trigger hiccups or chronic coughing.
Things that stimulate the vagus or phrenic nerves “reset” them, making the hiccups go away. Distraction or a scare can also work. Here is our favorite:
A Quick Cure for Most Cases
The best quick remedy for hiccups is one I learned from my sister-in-law, Wendy, years ago. It has been effective in eliminating the hiccups, without fail, for me and everyone I have introduced it to. The procedure sounds a little tricky, but is actually quite simple. Here is what you do:
Drink water upside down
Essentially you drink water upside down! How does one do that?
- Hold the far edge of a glass of water against the bottom of your upper lip.
- Bend forward and keep your upper lip touching the outer tip of the glass.
- Remaining in the forward position, pour the water from the glass slowly into your mouth so it runs over the upper palate of your mouth. Swallow most of the glass of water.
That should do it! Wait a minute and see that your hiccups are gone!
Swallow a Teaspoon of Dry Sugar
You can use also use salt or sand as well, but the sugar tastes better ;-)
A Third, Amusing Approach ;-)
This one is just a joke (from our free newsletter “Joke of the Week”)...
Pregnant at 71
A woman went to the doctor's office where she was seen by one of the younger doctors. After about four minutes in the examination room, she burst out screaming as she ran down the hall. An older doctor stopped her and asked what the problem was, and she told him her story. After listening, he had her sit down and relax in another room. The older doctor marched down the hallway back to where the young doctor was writing on his clipboard.
"What's the matter with you?" the older doctor demanded, "Mrs. Terry is 71 years old, has four grown children and seven grandchildren, and you told her she was pregnant?"
The younger doctor continued writing and without looking up said "Does she still have the hiccups?"