Hiccups can come at the most inconvenient times–just before you have to give an after-dinner toast or address the town planning commission, for instance. When you’re in public, you might have to use some very subtle methods to control the hiccuping. Some methods involve gentle pressure; others, a glass of water. And, if you have a high threshold of embarrassment–or you can hide somewhere–there are wonderfully strange contortions that hiccup-prone people have devised to cure the contractions. Do whatever works for you.
Emergency action in public places
• Press the palm of your hand with the thumb of your other hand. The harder, the better. Alternatively, you can squeeze the ball of your left thumb between the thumb and forefinger of the right. The discomfort is a distraction that affects your nervous system and may put an end to the hiccups. (And you can do it under the table, without anyone staring at you.)
• Take a deep breath and then hold it for a while. When there’s a buildup of carbon dioxide in your lungs, your diaphragm relaxes.
• If you can retire from public view for a few minutes (‘Sorry–have to visit the restroom!’), stick your fingers in your ears for twenty or thirty seconds. Or press the soft areas behind your earlobes, just below the base of the skull. That sends a ‘relax’ signal through the vagus nerve, which connects to the diaphragm area.
• As long as you’re out of sight, stick out your tongue. This rude-looking exercise is done by singers and actors because it stimulates the opening between the vocal cords (the glottis). You breathe more smoothly, quelling the spasms that cause hiccups.
• Cup your hands around your nose and mouth, but continue breathing normally. You’ll get relief from the extra dose of carbon dioxide.
• Take nine or 10 quick sips in a row from a glass. When you’re gulping a drink, rhythmic contractions of the esophagus override spasms of the diaphragm.
• If you can block your ears when you drink, all the better. Stick your fingers in your ears and sip through a straw. You’re pressing on the vagus nerve while also getting the benefits of steady swallowing.
• Place a single layer of paper towel over the top of the glass, then drink through the towel. You’ll have to ‘pull’ harder with your diaphragm to suck up the water, and concentrated gulping counteracts spasmodic muscle movements.
• Put one teaspoon of sugar or honey, stirred in warm water, on the back of your tongue, and swallow it.
• The sharp surprise of something sour can pucker lips and lick the hiccups. Cut a slice of lemon and suck on it.
• Swallow a teaspoon of cider vinegar. This is a challenge, but if you cope with the assault on the taste buds, it’s a quick cure. (Another vinegary method is to suck on a dill pickle.)
Take a time-out
• Sometimes relaxation is the key. Lie on a bed, stomach down, with head turned and arms hanging over the side. Take a deep breath, hold it for 10 to 15 seconds, exhale slowly. After a few repeats, rest for several minutes before you get up.
• If you can elicit the help of your partner, stand against the wall and ask your partner to place a fist lightly in the soft area just under your breastbone. Take a few deep breaths, and on the last one, exhale completely. Your partner should then press gently but firmly to help expel air from your lungs.
• A long, passionate kiss has been known to work. (And if it doesn’t? Well, no harm done.) Needless to say, it’s important to choose the right partner for this remedy.
Cures for kids
• Offer one big teaspoon of peanut butter. In the process of chewing and getting it off the tongue and teeth, swallowing and breathing patterns are interrupted.
• With a scoop of ice cream, the cure becomes a treat. The chill of the ice cream, steady swallowing, and a pleasurable distraction all add up to calming the diaphragm.
The power of prevention
• Avoid beer or carbonated soda, especially if they’re cold. The low temperature, combined with the bubbles, creates a medley of irritations that could set off your diaphragm.
• When you eat, slow down. Eating quickly, you swallow more air, and that can cause hiccups as well as burping.
• A few medications such as diazepam have been known to contribute to more frequent hiccups. If you suspect a prescription drug is the problem, talk to your doctor about taking an alternative.
• If a baby has hiccups, it could be because he or she swallowed too much air while feeding. So perform the same ritual you would for burping: Hold the baby against your shoulder and pat gently on the back. That can bring up the air and stop the hiccups. Also check the nipple of the baby bottle to see if it is allowing the right amount of fluid to flow out. Turn a full bottle upside down; you should get a regular dripping that slows and eventually stops. If too much or too little liquid comes out, that could be contributing to the hiccups.
For more natural and effective cures, check out 1,801 Home Remedies (Reader’s Digest).