How Hiccups Work

How to Stop Hiccups

Swallowing sugar could change nerve impulses in your tongue, perhaps stopping diaphragm spasms.
Swallowing sugar could change nerve impulses in your tongue, perhaps stopping diaphragm spasms.
© Photographer: Milosluz | Agency: Dreamstime

Once you have hiccups, you'll probably want to get rid of them ASAP. And you'll probably be overloaded with treatment options from well-meaning onlookers -- anything from swallowing a spoonful of sugar to pulling on your tongue . But no one solution has been proven to be more effective than another -- it seems to depend on the person and the specific situation. And medical advice can be just as varied, with treatments ranging from a digital rectal exam to surgery.

Before you start slurping down peanut butter, though, hang on for a few minutes -- most cases of hiccups resolve on their own.

However, if you just can't wait, or if they just won't stop, a home remedy is worth a try. Some of the most popular home remedies work by stimulating the nasopharynx, the part of the pharynx behind the tonsils that is continuous with the nasal passage. These remedies -- drinking from the far side of the glass, biting into a lemon, or pulling on your tongue -- are often helpful in relieving hiccups that have lasted for a few minutes.

Other popular methods -- like holding your breath - can stop hiccups by interrupting the respiratory cycle. Breathing into a paper bag, quickly downing a glass of cold water and being startled also work for the same reason. No one is exactly sure why, but mental distraction often stops hiccups. To try it out, simply have someone put you on the spot and demand to see a hiccup. If these methods aren't effective, acupuncture and hypnosis have been successful for some persistent hiccup sufferers.

­Medical maneuvers are usually reserved for those with persistent or intractable hiccups. Tapping or rubbing the back of the neck, massaging the carotid sinus (an artery in the neck), and applying pressure to the eyeball can stimulate the nerves of the diaphragm. Diaphragm-relaxing medication is also an option for some patients. More invasive treatments include stimulation of the pharynx using a tube through the nose or mouth, a digital rectal massage that may stimulate the nerve controlling the glottis, emptying the stomach through a tube in the nose, and surgery to block the nerves to the diaphragm.

Check out the links below for more information on hiccups and how to stop them.

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More Great Links


  • ­Mayo Clinic: Hiccups.
  • eMedicine: Hiccups.
  • WebMD: Hiccups.