The People's Perspective on Medicine

When Should You Worry About Hiccups?

Most of the time you don't need to worry about hiccups. Unless there is a serious problem behind the hiccups, home remedies can be very helpful.

Have you ever had hiccups? Almost everyone has. They can be annoying, embarrassing and uncomfortable, but hiccups generally go away on their own. When hiccups last for more than two days, though, they deserve medical attention. When should you worry about hiccups?

Reasons to Worry About Hiccups:

There are some serious conditions that might trigger long-lasting hiccups. These include something touching the ear drum, acid reflux, nerve damage, kidney disease, infection within the brain or spinal column, a tumor, a stroke or brain injury. Medications such as corticosteroids, anesthetics or sedatives can also provoke a bout of persistent hiccups.

Home Remedies for Hiccups:

If you have no special reason to worry about hiccups, however, there are plenty of home remedies that can stop them quickly. Many people have a particular favorite and insist that it is 100 percent reliable. We have been collecting hiccup home remedies for more than 40 years and we can assure you that none work for absolutely everyone. Here are some of our favorites, though.

One person has used this cure all his life:

“Have someone stand behind you and pull straight up on your ears while you take sips of water. I do this by myself by taking a mouthful of water and swallowing it in small amounts while pulling up on my ears. I kid you not, it works every time!”

The remedy is similar to one we have tested in which a person with hiccups drinks water while a helper standing behind him holds down the flaps of the hiccupper’s ears. (That little flap is called the tragus.)

Some remedies go back a long way.

Here is one:

“I had my first child in November, 1947. I brought him home when he was three days old and he immediately started hiccupping. I couldn’t figure out how to stop them.

“My dad came into the kitchen and told me to put a tiny bit of sugar on the end of a spoon and give it to the baby. It worked!

“I wonder where he heard that? From his mom, no doubt.”

The sugar cure for hiccups (swallowing a spoonful of dry sugar all at once) was featured in the pages of The New England Journal of Medicine in 1971.

Another person goes to the opposite extreme.

Instead of sugar, she uses vinegar:

“I don’t remember how I got started with this, but I think I just tried it on my own and it worked. Whenever I get the hiccups, I just swallow a teaspoon full of vinegar. My husband thinks it’s disgusting, but it always seems to work. I usually use apple cider vinegar.”

When Bartenders Worry About Hiccups:

People who drink alcohol are especially susceptible to hiccups. One favorite bartender recipe is to have the hiccupping person suck on a lemon wedge that has been sprinkled with a few drops of Angostura bitters.

One last remedy is chocolate:

“My father was recovering in the hospital for several weeks last summer, and many, many times he had lengthy bouts of severe hiccups. As he was recovering from abdominal surgery, these were extremely painful.

“His doctors tried anti-spasmodic drugs to end them, but that didn’t work. I read about chocolate as a remedy in your book, bought him a bag of chocolate chips, and voila. He is in his seventies and a skeptic. When he mentions this cure to his doctors, they think he is making it up. He was thrilled.”

Learn More:

Anyone who would like to learn more about simple solutions for hiccups and other common ailments may find our book, Quick & Handy Home Remedies, of interest. It contains numerous remedies for a wide range of common problems.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I’ve had hiccups for more than two days now. Should I be worried ?

A person I knew had constant hiccups & was diagnosed 4 months later with esophageal cancer which sadly was terminal. Do not ignore a bout of constant hiccups.

A teaspoon of peanut butter works every single time for me.

Hiccups! One night as I was preparing for bed I suddenly got hiccups. I had just finished brushing my teeth and was about to gargle, so I went ahead and gargled. Surprisingly, I never had another hiccup! I’ve had hiccups several times since then, and have discovered that a quick gargle with water absolutely stops them. This is my all time favorite remedy now.

My husband had a bad case of hiccups as soon as he came out of surgery for knee replacement. About a week later a clot was found in his lungs after 2 CT Scans. The hiccups gradually went away after my husband was put on Warfarin. No one could tell us what started the hiccups in the first place. It was a bad experience. Constant hiccup 24 hours a day.

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