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Get Rid of Hiccups: 21 Tricks

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  • What causes hiccups?
  • What gives you hiccups?
  • What helps against hiccups?
  • When do hiccups become dangerous?

A hiccup is annoying. The annoying hiccuping noise can bother you up to 60 times a minute. Even though it is almost always harmless from a health point of view, you want to get rid of the embarrassing, annoying and, over time, painful hiccups as quickly as possible. We'll explain to you here what tricks you can use to achieve this.

What causes hiccups?

The cause of the annoying hiccuping is in the diaphragm, a muscle that lies between the chest and abdominal cavities. You can locate it by consciously breathing deeply into your stomach. You can feel how the diaphragm contracts downwards and at the same time the volume in the chest increases. This creates a negative pressure that ensures that air is sucked into the lungs through the open crack between the vocal cords. In order to breathe out again, the diaphragm relaxes.

So far so good. However, if the diaphragm suddenly tenses convulsively, a reflex is triggered that closes the glottis between the vocal cords. This means that the air cannot escape from the lungs; instead, it hits the vocal cords with pressure. This creates a noise that we know as the typical hiccup-hiccup.

What gives you hiccups?

Swallowing too quickly when eating, foods that are too hot or cold, as well as alcohol and smoking can irritate the phrenic nerve in the brain stem, the so-called hiccup center, so much that it triggers a sudden spasm of the diaphragm. But stress, nervousness and rapid, irregular breathing can also cause annoying hiccups.

What helps against hiccups?

The neurologist Professor Diethard Müller from Ilmenau explains the best tricks with which you can get rid of hiccups really quickly.

1. Pull your tongue
“This stimulates the nervous vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve, which runs from the brain to the abdominal cavity and has a calming effect when stimulated,” says Professor Müller. This long nerve (vagus nerve) controls, among other things, the motor functions of the larynx, pharynx and upper esophagus as well as the reflexes of the internal organs in the chest and abdomen.

2. Breathe into a bag
You blow in air rich in carbon dioxide and then inhale it again. As a result, the carbon dioxide concentration in the blood increases. Receptors direct the information into the brain to the vagus origin and in this way calm it down. Caution! If you breathe into the bag for too long, you risk fainting due to the lack of oxygen.

3. Hold your breath
But only when you breathe out. This relaxes the phrenic nerve, which supplies the respiratory muscles. In addition, carbon dioxide increases. “It’s even better than blowing into a bag,” says Professor Müller.

4. Throw in candies
As mentioned, the vagus nerve also supplies the muscles in the throat. Whether sour, sweet or spicy – when you suck candies you distract him.

5. Drink a glass of water in large sips with your nose closed
Not breathing increases carbon dioxide levels in the blood. Special chemoreceptors register this increase and report it to the brain. This results in a calming of the vagus nucleus in the brain. “This probably also calms the phrenic nerve, which starts in the neck area and is connected to the diaphragm,” says Professor Müller.

6. Roll your tongue back
Rolling the tongue back into the roof of the mouth for a few breaths is intended to ensure that breathing increases through the stomach and becomes calmer.

7. Get scared
This method is aimed at directly influencing brain impulses in the vagal nucleus with the aim of distracting from hiccups and calming them down.

8. Gargle with water
Gargling disrupts breathing, which causes an increase in carbon dioxide in the blood. In addition, the vagus nerve in the back wall of the throat is irritated. Both lead to the calming of the hiccup impulses.

9. Suck ice cream
Sucking on an ice cube or eating ice cream also distracts the hiccup impulses and stimulates the vagus. Everything as usual. However, very cold or very dry foods are more distracting than food at a normal temperature because the stimulus is greater.

10. Tickling the neck
Tickling your neck is said to stimulate the phrenic nerve. However, Müller says: “Hardly effective!”

11. Eat sugar
Distracts the brain from the stimulus of swallowing. This was even proven in a small study published in the New England Journal of Medicine: A spoonful of sugar stopped the hiccups in 19 out of 20 hiccuping subjects.

12. Apple cider vinegar on sugar chips
Let a few drops of apple cider vinegar dissolved in sugar melt in your mouth. Another home remedy that is supposed to distract the brain.

13. Pure vinegar
Anyone who swallows pure vinegar is particularly distracted. Greetings from disgust.

14. Count to 100
Or count backwards from 100 to zero. As a variant: With each “hic” double the number you just reached when counting backwards. This method also serves to distract brain impulses.

15. Tickle
Anyone who allows themselves to be tickled while holding their breath and trying not to laugh has a lot to do. This method also does three things: stimulation of the vagus nerve, an increase in carbon dioxide and distraction of the brain.

16. Take essential oils
Targets the familiar distraction once again. Does it help? Try!

17. Drink tea
It's supposed to calm you down and maybe it does. True to the motto: wait and drink tea.

18. Press on the nose
Press your nostrils with both thumbs, then cover your ears with your index fingers and swallow 13 times. Anyone who is so busy is guaranteed to be distracted at times. In addition, there is vagal irritation from the ear and nose.

19. Breathe slowly
Slow, calm breathing also increases carbon dioxide in the blood.

20. Induce gagging and vomiting
If you trigger the urge to vomit, the vagus nerve is stimulated. Drastic method, only recommended in severe cases.

21. Put your fingers in your ears
If you insert your index fingers into the ear canals and move them slightly back and forth, this also stimulates the vagus.

When do hiccups become dangerous?

Studies show that in the vast majority of cases, hiccups are benign and go away on their own. However, if the hiccups last longer than a day or if you suddenly experience hiccups much more often than before, you should be vigilant and contact your family doctor. It could be due to an abnormal flow of stomach contents back into the esophagus, a so-called reflux. But diseases of the larynx, esophagus or stomach lining, for example, can also be the cause. It's better if you get it checked out by a doctor.

Serious side effects such as headaches, dizziness, nausea and symptoms of paralysis can also be a warning sign of a stroke, in which case you should alert the emergency doctor (112) immediately.

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