What can I do to relieve hiccups?

Symptom Database

Hiccups are a common and often annoying occurrence that can happen to anyone at any time. They are involuntary contractions of the diaphragm muscle, causing a sudden intake of breath that is then abruptly stopped by the closure of the vocal cords. This closure produces the characteristic “hic” sound that we associate with hiccups. While hiccups are usually harmless and temporary, they can be quite bothersome. In this article, we will explore the causes of hiccups, how to get rid of them, and some home remedies and treatments that can provide relief.

Causes of Hiccups

Hiccups can be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from eating too quickly to underlying medical conditions. Some common causes of hiccups include:

  • Eating or drinking too quickly, which can irritate the diaphragm
  • Consuming carbonated beverages or spicy foods
  • Drinking alcohol excessively
  • Swallowing air while eating or drinking
  • Emotional stress or excitement
  • Smoking or chewing gum
  • Underlying medical conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), pneumonia, or kidney disorders

Understanding the cause of your hiccups can help you determine the best course of action to relieve them.

How to Get Rid of Hiccups

When hiccups strike, there are several techniques you can try to get rid of them. While not all methods work for everyone, it’s worth experimenting to find what works best for you. Here are some common techniques:

  • Hold your breath: Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can. This can help reset the diaphragm and stop the hiccups.
  • Drink water: Take small sips of water without pausing to breathe. This can help stimulate the vagus nerve and interrupt the hiccup reflex.
  • Breathe into a paper bag: Breathing into a paper bag increases the carbon dioxide levels in your bloodstream, which can help relax the diaphragm and stop hiccups.
  • Gargle with ice water: Gargling with ice water can stimulate the back of the throat and potentially stop hiccups.
  • Apply pressure to your diaphragm: Gently pressing on your diaphragm, located just below your ribcage, can help relax the muscle and stop hiccups.

If your hiccups persist for more than 48 hours or are accompanied by severe pain or difficulty breathing, it is important to seek medical attention, as this may indicate an underlying medical condition.

Home Remedies for Hiccups

In addition to the techniques mentioned above, there are several home remedies that may help relieve hiccups:

  • Sugar: Swallowing a teaspoon of sugar can stimulate the vagus nerve and potentially stop hiccups.
  • Vinegar: Consuming a small amount of vinegar can help stimulate the diaphragm and stop hiccups.
  • Lemon: Sucking on a lemon wedge soaked in bitters can help interrupt the hiccup reflex.
  • Peanut butter: Eating a spoonful of peanut butter can help stimulate the vagus nerve and potentially stop hiccups.
  • Breathing exercises: Practicing deep breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing, can help relax the diaphragm and stop hiccups.

It’s important to note that while these home remedies may provide temporary relief, they may not work for everyone. If your hiccups persist or worsen, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional.

Hiccups Treatment

In some cases, hiccups may become chronic and last for an extended period of time. If this occurs, medical intervention may be necessary. Some treatment options for chronic hiccups include:

  • Medications: Certain medications, such as baclofen or chlorpromazine, can help relax the diaphragm and stop hiccups.
  • Nerve blocks: Injecting an anesthetic into the phrenic nerve, which controls the diaphragm, can provide temporary relief from chronic hiccups.
  • Surgery: In rare cases, surgery may be recommended to treat chronic hiccups. This typically involves implanting a device that stimulates the vagus nerve.

If you are experiencing chronic hiccups, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.


Hiccups can be a nuisance, but they are usually harmless and temporary. By understanding the causes of hiccups and trying various techniques and home remedies, you can often find relief. However, if your hiccups persist or are accompanied by severe symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention. Remember, what works for one person may not work for another, so don’t be discouraged if you need to try multiple methods to find what works best for you. With patience and persistence, you can effectively relieve hiccups and get back to enjoying your day.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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