One of the most popular topics for discussion of home remedies is how to stop hiccups. Bartenders used to offer a squirt of bitters on a lemon wedge to hiccuping customers. Over the years, dozens of readers have told us about drinking water from the opposite side of the glass or drinking it while someone else presses gently on the tragus (ear flaps). Now one reader suggests a remedy that isn’t as tricky but might work as well.
Learning How to Stop Hiccups from a Little Baby:
Q. I learned my go-to hiccup remedy from my first child when he was just a nursing infant. He got hiccups fairly often, and they would always go away when my milk let down while he was nursing. At that point, he went from sipping to swallowing rapidly and continuously.
So I tried treating hiccups by drinking a glass of water quickly, swallowing continuously without pauses between swallows. That worked. The standard “drink a glass of water” advice doesn’t work if you just sip it. I try to be careful not to swallow air along with the water because sometimes swallowing air triggers hiccups for me. My son is 40 now, and I’ve been using this remedy all this time.
A. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful observations. Having watched a nursing infant swallowing hard and fast to keep up when the mother’s milk lets down, we can appreciate the technique you are suggesting.
We suspect that most hiccup remedies work by stimulating the vagus nerve. This network of nerves collects information from the body’s major organs starting above the throat and reaching down to the colon.
Many home remedies for hiccups appear to stimulate this important nerve. Presumably, continuous swallowing as you describe has a similar effect on the vagus nerve.
Other Favorite Hiccup Remedies:
Q. I have seen some of your articles on curing hiccups and noted my favorite remedy was not mentioned. Just swallow a teaspoon of granulated sugar dry. I learned in med school that this works by stimulating the vagus nerve through reflex irritation of the palate.
A. We wrote about this remedy in our first book, The People’s Pharmacy, in 1976. It was reported in The New England Journal of Medicine (Dec. 23, 1971), and we have been recommending it ever since. It is a simple approach that is usually effective.
When this remedy fails, there are many others. Some people are enthusiastic about pineapple juice or even pickle juice. We discuss quite a range in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.
Here is one most people won’t want to try, but it can be helpful to know how to stop hiccups that have lasted for days.
Enema for Persistent Hiccups:
Q. You have written about hiccups that will not go away. My husband had hiccups for four days and finally saw the doctor when his ribs started hurting.
His physician told him to use an enema suppository. He did, and the hiccups were gone within 24 hours. I hope this helps someone else.
A. Persistent hiccups require a medical workup to rule out any serious underlying cause such as a heart attack, pneumonia, pancreatitis, hepatitis or cancer.
When all else fails, doctors have found that massaging the rectum can be surprisingly effective. Over two decades ago, an article in the Journal of Internal Medicine (Feb. 1990) reported that digital rectal massage resulted in a quick cure for intractable hiccups. Perhaps that is why your husband’s doctor suggested a suppository. We’re glad this approach worked so well.
Persistent hiccups could signal a serious problem such as an electrolyte disturbance (American Journal of Emergency Medicine, June 2017). Consequently, if they last for two days or more despite trying everything you know about how to stop hiccups, you should seek medical attention.