Type “cure for the hiccups” into Google and you’ll get 1.4 million results. And although the exact cause of hiccups is still a mystery, scientists know what goes on: A stimulus in the brain tells the diaphragm to suddenly contract. As a result, you take a sudden breath in, which forces the vocal cords to slam shut. That repeats until something happens to interrupt the reflex.
So is there anything that really works to get rid of hiccups? Here’s advice from Philip Hagen, a doctor of preventive medicine at the Mayo Clinic:
1. A glass of water, ice water or water with a teaspoon of sugar in it. Any of these stimulate the upper throat and interrupt the reflex response.
2. A teaspoon of sugar, dissolved slowly in the mouth. The sweet sensation creates a signal in the mouth that uses some of the same neural pathways involved in hiccups.
3. Breathe into a paper bag. This subtly increases carbon dioxide in the blood, which represses the reflex to hiccup.
A fourth way to relieve hiccups: Hold your breath. Again, it increases carbon-dioxide levels in the blood. Don’t take it to extremes or you’ll feel faint. Just hold your breath until it’s slightly uncomfortable, and repeat if it doesn’t work the first time.