Causes of hiccups include eating too quickly, hot and spicy foods or liquids, toxic fumes, conditions that can irritate the nerves regulating the diaphragm (such as pneumonia), recent abdominal surgery, a liver tumor, or a stroke or tumor involving the hiccup center in the brain.
Most cases of hiccups are not serious, have no apparent cause and resolve after a few minutes. In rare instances, hiccups may last for days, weeks or months. If hiccups continue for a long time, contact your doctor. BUT if that doctor suggests antibiotics, get a second opinion or perhaps a third.
There is no definite way to relieve hiccups. Some home remedies that can be effective include breathing into a paper bag (a plastic bag may cause suffocation), drinking cold water and holding your breath.
Breathing into a paper bag increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, which stimulates the brain to order deeper, stronger breaths that decrease carbon dioxide and make the diaphragm contract more regularly. In severe cases of hiccups, sedative or anti-spasmodic medications may be helpful.Nonpharmacologic therapies include the following:
- Techniques affecting components of the hiccup reflex - Stimulation of the nasopharynx; C3-5 dermatome stimulation; direct pharyngeal stimulation; direct uvular stimulation; removal of gastric contents
Techniques leading to vagal stimulation - Iced gastric lavage; Valsalva maneuver; carotid sinus massage; digital rectal massage; digital ocular globe pressure
Techniques interfering with normal respiratory function - Breath holding; hyperventilation; gasping; breathing into a paper bag; pulling the knees up to the chest and leaning forward; continuous positive airway pressure; rebreathing 5% carbon dioxide
- Mental distraction
- Behavioral conditioning
- Phrenic nerve or diaphragmatic pacing
- Prayer For long term chronic bouts see also our breathing kit