Here's how to cure hiccups when your kids get them. They say, "Darn! I've got the hiccups." You know they do 'cause you've already heard about a half dozen or so. But you disagree and say, "No, you don't."

"I do! I do!"

"Well, then let me hear one."

They will sit there and concentrate so hard and try their best to hiccup, but they won't be able to. My dad amazed me with this trick, and it's worked pretty good on mine, up until around the age of ten. That's when they're smarter than you, you know.

(In)famous hiccup remedies include eating a spoonful of sugar, holding your breath, and/or drinking from the far side of a glass.

The man who holds the record for longest hiccup streak was featured on the Krusty the Klown show on The Simpsons. He didn't give much of a performance: just sat on a stool saying "*Hic* Kill me. *Hic* Kill me. *Hic* Kill me...."

Medically, hiccups (or hiccoughs) are spasms of the diaphragm muscle. This muscle usually assists in breathing by stretching or squeezing the lungs, along with the ribcage muscles.

When the diaphragm muscle seizes, it stretches or squeezes the lungs suddenly, causing mild to sharp pain. Once it has seized, it upsets the normal breathing pattern.

Any muscle will spasm when it is not getting proper perfusion of oxygen. Since a hiccup upsets the breathing pattern, it often falls into a feedback loop, sustaining the conditions that caused them to start.

All the wives' tales to cure hiccups seem to revolve around

  • gulping in breath, or
  • holding your breath, or
  • gasping for breath.
  • Breathing in a paper or plastic bag is not recommended for hyperventilation or hiccups; forcing a lack of oxygen by breathing from a bag can be dangerous to the brain.

    To cure hiccups: stretch and perfuse your diaphragm. Breathe deeply and slowly, holding air in long enough to let the lungs convey oxygen into your bloodstream. Repeat.

    To cure hyperventilation: Breathe slowly, remain calm. Don't restrict airflow, but don't breathe overly deeply either. Relax.

    My mother used to get hiccups quite frequently. They were not the subtle, silent kind--the ones that would go unnoticed save for a telltale twitch of the shoulders or heave of the chest. No, she got LOUD hiccups, the kind that shatter a quiet evening at home with an ear-warping


    ...or something like that. Onomatopoeia doesn't work here; the English language doesn't contain the phonemes for the sounds she made. She's also easily embarrassed, so she'd blush. So you'd have this purple-faced woman (who is also, I might add, six feet tall) making loud


    sounds. Thus, over the years, we've managed to accumulate several excellent hiccup cures. I imagine that these are largely idiosyncratic, but maybe they'll work for you, too. Here they are:

    • Vinegar. Yuck. It's gross and acidic, and it doesn't always work. In an emergency, though (e.g. you have to go play clarinet in two minutes), you might want to give it a try.
    • Tabasco, horseradish, or any other hot sauce. Not everyone can handle hot sauce--my mom can't--nor does this remedy work every time. So we'll move on to the best remedy of all...
    • Peanut butter. Once upon a time, my mom got hiccups while I was at a piano lesson. A sip from her water bottle didn't help, and she actually got up to leave so she wouldn't disrupt my lesson. My piano teacher waved my mother back to her seat, ran out of the room, then ran back with a spoonful of peanut butter. My mom swallowed it--and her hiccups vanished. Instantly. My mother uses this one exclusively. I've tried it myself. It works every single time.

    There you go. Don't ask me why it works, but it does. If peanut butter can cure my mom's hiccups, it can certainly cure yours.

    This is an actual quote from Principles of Surgery, Seventh Edition by Schwartz (McGraw-Hill, 1999):

    The treatments of hiccups are diverse. Nonpharmacologic hiccup treatments usually rely on some method of nasopharyngeal stimulation; examples include forcible traction of the tongue, gargling or sipping iced water, swallowing a tablespoon of granulated sugar, grape jelly under the tongue, and inhalation of noxious fumes (ammonia). Direct pharyngeal stimulation with a rubber catheter is reportedly successful in 90 percent of cases. Pharmacologic treatments include administering continuous positive-pressure ventilation at 25 to 35 cmH2O, chlorpromazine, haloperidol, phenytoin, phenobarbital, carbamazepine, and sodium valproate. Other agents sporadically reported in the literature include metoclopramide, amitriptyline, chloral hydrate and ketamine.

    Disclaimer: I am not a scientist. I do not sell pharmaceuticals. There are a lot of things wrong with me. Therefore, my use of medical type terminology is spotty at best.

    According to a gentleman with whom I was acquainted some time ago, hiccuping is an involuntary reaction over which we normally have no control. The concept he introduced me to after making this statement came as a complete surprise. We were driving back to New England from the Meadowlands in a car with three other gentlemen when I began hiccuping.

    Pete was driving the car we were herded into, and as we travelled up the highway known as I-95, he turned and screamed at me.

    "Come on you stupid fucker, give me another hiccup! You stupid ass fairy son of a bitch, give me a good one or I swear I will turn the wheel and drive right off the side of the road and kill us all!"

    After my hiccups came to an abrupt halt, Pete went on to discuss the rest of his theory, which he admitted was not entirely his own. He had extracted it from a number of published hiccup cures. By trying to make an involuntary hiccup attack into a voluntary action, the mind and body become so confused that the hiccups stop. Beyond that, he claimed that his "years of research" had taught him that fear and intimidation are important components of the hiccup cure. By sitting in a room by yourself mumbling "please, won't you hiccup for me?" the mind just says "yeah right, like I don't know what you're trying to do." Therefore, pressuring the hiccup victim to produce a hiccup or face severe consequences became part of his procedure.

    I have executed the procedure myself, but Pete's performances were always show stoppers. At one party he took a pistol from his bedroom and ran into the living room and held it against the head of a girl who had been hiccuping for ten minutes without pause. He demanded that she hiccup again, just for him, or he would shoot her. She was cured. This example is beyond the realm of human decency, but decorum was not one of Pete's interests. For him, the ends always justified the means. Never, ever, try this particular example yourself. EVER.

    Other proven methods of this treatment include the use of verbal abuse and threats. If you know the fears and weaknesses of the victim, use these against them. Use the most profane language imaginable and call them every foul name you can think of.

    "Everyone will know what a {insert terminology here} you are if you can't produce another hiccup for me RIGHT NOW!"

    So, for those who have long held the belief that fear, intimidation and verbal abuse have no constructive use in polite society... I offer you Pete's Hiccup Cure.

    Note: This cure has not yet been approved for use in the public school system, so please protect your children. Thank you.

    I forget where I learned this method, but it has never failed me. Even my friend, who swore that nothing anyone ever told him cured his hiccups, found it worked.

    First, draw in a deep breath. This is actually usually the hardest part for me, as the hiccups usually try to interrupt me.

    Second, plug your earholes with your index fingers and your nose with your thumbs. Yes, it looks absurd.

    Finally, while still holding your breath, swallow three or four times. The first time you try this, you may find swallowing to be very difficult. Try gathering some saliva in the back of your mouth to swallow, it may help.

    Why is it so hard to swallow? Your ears are connected to your windpipe, which is why swallowing usually cures popped ears. When you swallow, there is a certain amount of air movement. In this case though, your ears and nose are plugged.

    Now, this sounds bizarre, but it works! Anyone with more biology under their belt than me, I'd love to know why it does.

    I personally like the deep breathing technique.

    However, there is a medical journal article about one man's particularly persistent hiccups:

    From the Journal of Internal Medicine, 1990, February issue, 227(2) pages 145-6.

    Termination of intractable hiccups with digital rectal massage

    Odeh, M., Bassan, H., Oliven, A.

    Department of Internal Medicine, Bnai Zion Medical Center, Haifa, Israel.


    "A 60-year-old man with acute pancreatitis developed persistent hiccups after insertion of a nasogastric tube. Removal of the latter did not terminate the hiccups which had also been treated with different drugs, and several maneuvers were attempted, but with no success. Digital rectal massage was then performed resulting in abrupt cessation of the hiccups. Recurrence of the hiccups occurred several hours later, and again, they were terminated immediately with digital rectal massage. No other recurrences were observed. This is the second reported case associating cessation of intractable hiccups with digital rectal massage. We suggest that this maneuver should be considered in cases of intractable hiccups before proceeding with pharmacological agents."

    That's digital meaning "with the fingers".

    I've never had hiccups bad enough to try digital rectal massage, but at least I know of a way to stop it that worked in a hospital for at least two patients. And now, you do to.

    It's real. You can check yourself by searching for "hiccups AND digital rectal massage" on PubMed.

    I just always recited the litany against hiccups (huh?):

    I must not hiccup.
    Hiccups are the lung-killers.
    Hiccups are the little deaths that bring total obliteration.
    I will face my hiccups.
    I will permit them to pass over me and through me.
    And when they has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see their path.
    Where the hiccups have gone there will be nothing.
    Only I will remain.

    Haw haw...

    But seriously folks, Saige's method works rather well for me. You should try it. Self-control is a very interesting thing.

    Another thing to try is to open your trachea, exhale all the air you can, hit the center of your sternum rather firmly, and (just as you hit the sternum) breathe into your stomach. Then belch/breathe out. Obviously not something for polite company. But anyhow, what does this do?

    • It resets the diaphragm, which is spasming for any number of reasons and is not under conscious control
    • It also resets the epiglottis, which can sometimes be responsible for the really painful hiccups, and if it gets too screwed up, will cause food and air to go down the wrong pipes.
    • It allows your lungs to rest for a moment and sort of recalibrate.
    Note that this does take some practice, however, it usually works for me. My dad, when he was still in medical school, used to take me to the cadaver lab and let me watch while he did his research or papers or something. And he showed me the diaphragm and the epiglottis and explained all this to me. I was about 4 years old. I still remember it.

    I was surprised to find that no one had posted my family's technique for ridding yourself of hiccups. Fill a glass of water and put a butterknife in it, blade side down. Drink the whole glass, making sure that the handle of the knife presses into your forehead. You may look like a fool doing it, but it works every time.

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