Hiccups. They’re one of the more comical things the body inflicts on itself. That silly noise, the convulsions that jerk you about as though you were a puppet, the sheer persistence of the darn things… Watching someone with a bad case of hiccups in a public place is sure to provoke amusement, but if you’ve ever suffered them yourself you know they’re no laughing matter. Knowing how to get rid of hiccups can change misery into blessed relief.
Hiccups – What Happens
Unlike sneezing and coughing, hiccups seem to have no therapeutic purpose as far as the body is concerned and have puzzled mankind at least as far back as the ancient Greeks. What we do know is that they result from convulsions of the diaphragm.
The diaphragm is the muscle that sits below the lungs. When this muscle spasms it pulls on the stomach causing it to draw in air. As air is not generally supposed to enter the stomach, the body responds by clamping the glottis (the vocal cords) shut, a reaction which produces the characteristic “hic” sound.
When diaphragmatic convulsions are repeated we get chains of hiccups which in extreme cases can last for years.
The Cause of Hiccups
Hiccups can be caused by many things and are associated with certain diseases and injuries. For instance, if the phrenic nerve, which runs from the neck to the chest and controls the diaphragm, is irritated or damaged hiccups can occur.
Day to day hiccups, though, are generally thought to be the result of swallowing too much air, either through eating or drinking too fast, or because of rapid breathing brought about by nervous excitation. Foods which irritate the diaphragm like alcohol and hot, spicy food may also trigger hiccups.
Home remedies for getting rid of hiccups are mainly based around the idea of disrupting the cycle of diaphragmatic convulsions by calming the body or by increasing the level of carbon dioxide in the blood stream for short periods – a condition thought to help in curing hiccups.
The Water Cure
The classic cure for hiccups is to slowly drink a glass of luke warm water while holding your breath. This cure works in two ways. The slow swallowing action calms the body and helps to “reset” the diaphragm, while the rise in blood carbon dioxide which occurs as the breath is held provides a second line of attack.
The water cure has a number of variations. You can distract the mind more and prolong the process further (thereby increasing your carbon dioxide level) by bending over and drinking from the far side of the glass.
If you can’t manage this manoeuvre without spilling the water or having it run up your nose, you can place a paper napkin over the glass before you start and suck the water through it.
Another very effective hiccup cure is to place a teaspoon of dry white sugar on the back of your tongue. The body’s reaction to the granular texture and its need to swallow often result in the rapid termination of hiccups.
You can vary this hiccup remedy by placing the sugar under the tongue.
Holding Your Breath
Perhaps the simplest method of getting rid of hiccups is to hold your breath. This helps to get the diaphragm to relax and raises carbon dioxide levels. For it to be effective, though, you may find you have to hold your breath for quite a while and that you need to repeat the process several times.
Other Hiccup Remedies
If none of the hiccup cures listed above proves effective, you could always try one of the more idiosyncratic cures listed below. Who knows, they may work for you.
- Drink a shot of lemon juice.
- Eat a piece of fresh ginger.
- Pull your tongue.
- Get someone to give you a fright.
- Breathe into a paper bag.
- Suck a piece of ice.
With a little perseverance one of the hiccup remedies listed above should be able to stop that annoying lurching in your stomach and the embarrassing noise that accompanies it. Knowing how to get rid of hiccups is a small thing, but when the time comes it can be a source of great comfort.How to Get Rid of Hiccups,
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