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The Ups and Downs of the Hiccups

By Staff Writer

Get rid of hiccupsHiccups are gulping sounds caused by involuntary spasms of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the muscle that separates the chest and abdomen and helps with breathing. Hiccups can be triggered if you eat too much or too fast, consume very hot or cold foods and beverages or drink carbonated beverages. Other causes include cold showers, entering or leaving a hot or cold room, sudden excitement and stress. Hiccups are not a serious medical condition and usually disappear on their own within a few minutes. If they last longer than 24 hours, hiccups may be a sign of another condition or injury. You should see your health care provider if you experience prolonged hiccupping. Home remedies are usually the primary treatment for hiccups, although no one is really sure how well they work. Hiccup home remedies include sneezing, being suddenly frightened, holding your breath, gargling, drinking pineapple juice, drinking water rapidly, sipping ice water or swallowing dry granulated sugar. These activities may help by altering breathing patterns. Doctors may recommend prescription medicines to treat hiccups that last longer than a day. Drugs that may help include chlorpromazine (Thorazine®), baclofen (Lioresal®), metoclopramide (Reglan®), valproic acid (Depakote®), haloperidol (Haldol®), and nifedipine (Procardia®). Researchers believe these medicines work by affecting nerves in the diaphragm that are involved in causing spasms; however, doctors usually only prescribe these medicines if the hiccups are severe due to the lethargic side effects of some of these drugs.

Sources: Applied Therapeutics: The Clinical Use of Drugs. Applied Therapeutics, 1995.Engleman EG, et al. “Granulated sugar as treatment for hiccups in conscious patients.” New England Journal of Medicine 285 (1971).Friedman, NL. “Hiccups: A Treatment Review.” Pharmacotherapy 16 (1996).Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs. American Pharmaceutical Association, 2000.Margolis, G. “Hiccup Remedies.” New England Journal of Medicine 286 (1972).Mayo Clinic Family Health Book. William Morrow & Co., 1996.Medline Plus. Medline, 2006.Micromedex® Healthcare Series. Thomson Micromedex, 2006.This answer prepared 6/19/2001. This information updated 1/30/2007.