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Understanding Hiccups: Prevention and Treatment

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As a researcher and author, John provides information in an easy-to-understand way that helps readers understand their condition.

How often do you get hiccups? They’re a common condition surrounded by a lot of misinformation.

In the movies, they’re often a telltale sign that a character has a drinking problem. In reality, they have many causes. You’ve probably heard of dozens of home remedies. However, most of them lack any science to back them up.

You may even be wondering what is going on with your body when you hiccup. They happen when your diaphragm, a muscle under your rib cage, starts to spasm. The sound comes from your vocal cords closing after each contraction.

Hiccups rarely cause any harm, unless they embarrass you during a movie or a job interview. While you may need to accept them as part of life, you can learn more about how to prevent and stop them.

Preventing Hiccups

They often take you by surprise, but you may have noticed that certain activities are more likely to make you hiccup.

Focus on the factors you can control:

  1. Avoid overeating. Too much food, especially fatty and spicy dishes, could be the culprit. Downsize your servings and eat slowly, so you’ll take in less air with each bite.
  2. Skip soda. Carbonated beverages have a similar effect. Enjoy plain water or tea, instead of cola and seltzer.
  3. Limit alcohol. When you drink, you increase the risk of acid reflux or heartburn. That’s when the contents of your stomach flow back into your esophagus. This can cause hiccups and more serious symptoms.
  4. Quit smoking. There are more compelling reasons to give up tobacco, but it causes hiccups too. Pick a quit date and use a combination of methods, like nicotine replacement devices and social support.
  5. Manage stress. Maybe your emotional state is making you hiccup. Practice daily relaxation techniques, like a favorite hobby or a warm bath. When you’re under pressure, go for a walk or talk with a friend.

Treating Hiccups

In rare cases, hiccups require medical treatment, but you can usually let them resolve themselves. Find out more about how to handle them.

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Try these techniques:

  1. Wait it out. The longest recorded bout of hiccups lasted for 68 years. Yours are likely to go away in just a few minutes or a few hours.
  2. Get medical care when necessary. Prolonged hiccups can be a sign of many serious conditions, including cancer and stroke. Call your doctor if they persist for more than 2 hours and go to an emergency room if you have other symptoms, such as numbness or loss of coordination.
  3. Drink water. Most home remedies rely on relaxing your vagus nerve that helps control reflexes, or just simple distraction. You may want to start by sipping a glass of water.
  4. Breathe deeply. You may be able to stop your diaphragm from contracting if you inhale and hold the air in. Then, take a few full breaths, paying attention to how your diaphragm rises when you inhale and drops when you exhale.
  5. Eat peanut butter. It takes a while for your body to digest something this sticky. A teaspoon of smooth or chunky is worth a try.
  6. Hug your knees. Bend over and press your knees against your chest. It will help compress your diaphragm.
  7. Pull your tongue. Other pressure points may be involved too. If you’re uncomfortable holding your tongue, you can pull your ears or rub your eyes.
  8. Scare yourself. Maybe someone will jump out and yell boo for you. If it doesn’t cure your hiccups, it will still entertain your kids.

Compared to the serious public health issues in recent years, you may not mind having a few hiccups now and then. Maybe you’ll even invent a home remedy that really works.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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