How To Get Rid of Hiccups: 12 Remedies That Could Work for You

Easy fixes for when your diaphragm won't stop spasming.

Hiccups happen to almost everyone. Still, they're annoying. And if hiccups don't go away fast, they can become uncomfortable, even embarrassing. Even though we've all likely experienced them before, what are hiccups, anyway?

"A hiccup occurs when there is a spasm or contraction of the muscles in between the ribs and the diaphragm, which is the largest muscle responsible for breathing," Jason McKnight, MD, clinical assistant professor in the department of primary care and population health at the College of Medicine at Texas A&M University, told Health.

During one of these spasms, you suck in air. That air passes through the vocal cords, resulting in the telltale hiccup sound, Jennifer Boozer, DO, family medicine specialist with Keck Medicine at the University of Southern California, told Health.

Hiccups are involuntary and something you can't readily control. "It's thought that a hiccup is a 'reflex' that occurs in the body," Dr. McKnight said.

How to Get Rid of Hiccups
Getty Images

What Causes Hiccups?

Experts aren't totally sure they know all the reasons why hiccups happen, Dr. Boozer said. In general, things that irritate the diaphragm or the nerves that connect to the diaphragm (called the phrenic and vagus nerves) can lead to hiccups, according to MedlinePlus. Those include eating or drinking too fast, sipping carbonated beverages or alcohol, and being stressed out or really excited.

Certain medical conditions, such as acid reflux, can be a trigger, and hiccups could be a side effect of certain medications, Dr. Boozer said. One of the most well-known hiccup-causing meds are benzodiazepines, which are used to treat anxiety, according to a 2013 study published in Case Reports in Dentistry.

How To Get Rid of Hiccups

Most of the time, hiccups will go away within several minutes, Dr. Boozer said. So typically, you don't have to do anything to make them disappear except wait. "Sometimes, ignoring hiccups is the best thing you can do," Dr. Boozer said. "They usually don't last very long and typically go away on their own."

However, let's say you have a Zoom presentation to give in five minutes, and you'd rather not hiccup between every sentence in front of your colleagues. What can you do to nip hiccups in the bud? Try these home remedies:

  • Take deep, slow breaths.
  • Drink water or ice water.
  • Gargle.
  • Let someone or something scare you.
  • Bite into a lemon.
  • Hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds.
  • Pull on your tongue.
  • Blow up a balloon.
  • Breathe into a paper bag.
  • Sit down and pull your knees to your chest for one minute.
  • Put a cold compress on your face.

You might also try the Valsalva maneuver, Dr. McKnight said. To do it, pinch your nose and hold your breath, then force yourself to exhale and bear down as if you're going to poop. Hold for about 10 seconds. This might be one you want to attempt if you're at home by yourself versus in public, though.

Unfortunately, experts say that none of these "cures" emerge as the winning remedy. But the good news is, they might get rid of your hiccups, and most are safe to try, Dr. McKnight said.

While these remedies sound rather random, they all tap into a couple of mechanisms, Dr. Boozer said. They either disrupt the pattern of diaphragm spasms (such as holding your breath) or irritate the phrenic or vagus nerves to disrupt the nerve impulse (such as putting a cold compress on your face or gargling).

In the case of pulling your knees up to your chest, this might work by putting pressure on the diaphragm, notes a 2015 systematic review of hiccup cures in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. (BTW, the preferred cure for the author of that study is exhaling and then holding the breath.)

Speaking of attempting these remedies, not everyone should try them. Dr. McKnight noted that "if you have cardiac or respiratory disease, where shortness of breath is common, then it might not be a good idea to attempt holding your breath for a long period of time." If you're not sure if a remedy is safe for you, consult your healthcare provider first.

How To Prevent Hiccups

If you get hiccups often, pay attention to when you're getting them in the first place. "If you notice that you tend to have hiccups in similar situations—overeating, consuming spicy foods, exposure to irritants—then you may have to avoid those situations going forward if the hiccups are truly a nuisance to you," Dr. McKnight said.

Should you notice that stress sets off your hiccups, consider slowing down and building more opportunities for self-care.

When To See a Healthcare Provider for Hiccups

It's rare, but sometimes serious medical conditions can cause hiccups, Dr. McKnight said. Those can be problems with the central nervous system or even a tumor.

If your hiccups don't go away within a few days or keep coming back, you may be experiencing chronic hiccups, according to MedlinePlus. Chronic hiccups can interfere with your sleep, eating, drinking, and talking. If you have chronic hiccups, contact your healthcare provider. Your provider might decide to run additional tests to determine if a disease or disorder is the cause.

Indeed, hiccups aren't just a small problem—they can take a real toll on your quality of life when you have them, points out a 2019 review in the journal Current Oncology Reports.

Dr. Boozer agreed: "Long-term, hiccups can cause disruption through trouble eating and sleeping. We want to make sure that nothing more serious is going on. It's important to get medical attention because in rare cases, they do last a long time."

And who knows? Maybe your hiccups went away during the time it took you to read this. If so, you're welcome.

Was this page helpful?
Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Hiccups.

  2. Peacock ME. Transient hiccups associated with oral dexamethasone. Case Rep Dent. 2013;2013:426178. doi:10.1155/2013/426178

  3. Steger M, Schneemann M, Fox M. Systemic review: The pathogenesis and pharmacological treatment of hiccups. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2015;42(9):1037-1050. doi:10.1111/apt.13374

  4. Hendrix K, Wilson D, Kievman M, Jatoi A. Perspectives on the medical, quality of life, and economic consequences of hiccups. Curr Oncol Rep. 2019;21(12):113.

Related Articles