Hiccups tend to strike at the most inopportune times, causing those around you to startle as you desperately try to remember the remedy that works. Is it holding your breath? Drinking water?
According to Dr. James Lin, a board-certified internal medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, hiccups are usually caused by gastric distension from overeating, carbonated drinks, alcohol or sudden excitement and swallowing of air.
Avoiding carbonated drinks right before you make a presentation can help prevent them, but what should you do once the hiccups hit?
In rapid-fire fashion, Dr. Lin answers the five most common hiccup solution questions:
1. Drinking lots of water? — No.
2. Being scared by someone? — No.
3. Sticking out your tongue? — No.
4. Holding your breath? — Yes, but it has to last for several seconds or longer.
5. Breathing into a paper bag? — Yes.
“The best way to stop hiccups is to stimulate the back of your throat,” says Dr. Lin. “Sipping on cold water, gargling with water or swallowing a teaspoon of sugar can help.”
Sugar and gargling are considered popular cures because they overwhelm your vagus nerve with another sensation. Your vagus nerve is the nerve that communicates between your brain and your stomach. When your vagus nerve is distracted by the swallowing of sugar or gargling of water, it helps distract your body from the hiccups.
Another popular remedy when sugar or water is not handy? “Try pulling your knees up to your chest and lean forward,” suggests Dr. Lin. The compression helps stop your diaphragm from spasming.
If none of these remedies work and you have hiccups that last longer than 48 hours, Dr. Lin suggests scheduling an appointment with your doctor. If there is consistent pain, seek immediate attention.
Hiccups lasting for a long time can be a sign of more serious and extremely rare illnesses.
“The easiest way to avoid getting hiccups is to steer clear of overeating and drinking too many carbonated or alcoholic drinks,” says Dr. Lin.