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Taking Control of Your Hiccups

Taking Control of Your Hiccups

Common causes and effective cures for hiccups.

When Neko Case sings Honky Tonk Hiccups, you can feel her agony: “I started getting hiccups 'round suppertime. Held my breath 'til I hit the floor, but the hiccups kept coming, even more, more, more.” And she’s not alone. A recent study in Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports says the involuntary contractions are much more common than previously thought. Every year they send about 4,000 folks in the US to the hospital. They’re seeking relief from the relentless interruptions to sleep, socializing and work that come from persistent hiccups (lasting two+ days) or intractable hiccups (lasting 1 month+)—and more than 90 percent are men over 50!

What’s the cause? Researchers say major nerves (vagus and phrenic) and neurotransmitters send signals through the midbrain that create the “Hiccup now,” message. That may be triggered by chronic illness such as arthritis of the sternum, heart failure with an enlarged heart, even herpes infections or blood clots in the lungs. Meds such as corticosteroids, Xanax, Ambien, acid-reflux drugs, chemo, some anti-Parkinson’s drugs and antibiotics can also trigger them.

Solutions are hit or miss. For some folks, surgery can stop transmission of the message, and medications, including anticonvulsants, dopamine blockers, baclofen (used for MS), as well as anesthesia, ventilation, even acupuncture are useful. And tune into Dr. Oz’s video on Sharecare.com to find out home remedies for hiccups. Here’s one: Stand on one leg; pinch your nose closed; jump up and down. Seems changing the carbon dioxide balance in your lungs calms the diaphragm. Try it!

Medically reviewed in January 2019.

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