Hiccuping for more than a day. Please kill me.
October 11, 2009 5:54 AM   Subscribe

Not-funny-anymore-filter: I've been hiccuping for more than 24 hours. Help!

I'll take anything, from medical advice to your favorite old wives tale. Please! Anything!

(I've got my hands full with kids today, so I'll be on and off. It started like any old set of hiccups.)
posted by unixrat to Health & Fitness (42 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
The Mayo Clinic's suggestions. I've always found that the "paper bag" one works for me, though I've never had hiccups for anywhere near 24 hours.

Also, they say that if your hiccups last longer tha 48 hours, or if they're so severe that they interfere with eating or breathing, make an appointment to see a doctor.
posted by Flunkie at 6:09 AM on October 11, 2009

Get someone to scare you - jump out at you from behind a door, ambush you in a dark hallway, whatever. The point is to make you jump.

Fun for the other person, and actually works in my experience. :)
posted by Xany at 6:14 AM on October 11, 2009

Oh joy. Diaphragm spasms are no fun, and there's loads of home remedies.

What I always try first is exhaling completely, then before taking a breath, burping. Something about pushing all the air out of my lungs and that burp to top it all off seems to work for me. Then again, I've never had hiccups for 24 hours.

Of course, if none of this works by tomorrow, definitely call a doctor. No need to panic about it, but you are reaching the point where it's a genuine medical problem rather than just a twitch in your gut.
posted by Saydur at 6:18 AM on October 11, 2009

Recline comfortably somewhere while you let pieces of chocolate- the best kind you can find, naturally- melt slowly in your mouth, focusing on the relaxation and the taste instead of your twitchy diaphragm. It tends to work for me, but even if not, I care a little less afterwards. Probably hard candy could work as well.
posted by notquitemaryann at 6:20 AM on October 11, 2009

Hold your lips together and pinch your nose - don't let any air in or out at all. Then swallow three times. Usually works for me.
posted by SebastianKnight at 6:23 AM on October 11, 2009

Drinking some water from the opposite side of the glass has always worked for me.
posted by maggiemae at 6:27 AM on October 11, 2009

Eating a tablespoon of sugar works for me. I just started doing it recently, and it works so well I am tempted to carry around a packet of sugar in my purse at all times.
posted by zoey08 at 6:37 AM on October 11, 2009

I'e been waiting months -- nay, years -- for someone to ask this. I give you the winner of the Ig Nobel prize for medicine 2006: Termination of intractable hiccups with digital rectal massage. Oh yes.

The paper isn't free access unfortunately, so here's New Scientist's summary:
Runaway electrical impulses in the vagus nerve cause intractable hiccups, so Fesmire attempted to block them by stimulating the nerve. Gagging, tongue pulling, sinus massage and pressing the eyeball to stimulate the vagus all failed to stop the hiccups. Then he remembered reading about a case in which digital rectal massage - inserting a finger into a patient's anus - had slowed a racing heartbeat, an effect similar to runaway hiccups.
However, Fesmire will not be trying it again. In researching his Ig Nobel acceptance speech, he told New Scientist that he found a treatment sure to be more popular with hiccup patients. "An orgasm results in incredible stimulation of the vagus nerve. From now on, I will be recommending sex - culminating with orgasm - as the cure-all for intractable hiccups."
So yeah, try one of those. Or both, if you're feeling adventurous.

Alternatively -- and if you want to take the coward's way out -- I and several friends have found sucking a drink through a straw to be astonishingly effective. We reckon it might be the source of the "drinking from the wrong side of the glass" idea, which would also have to involve a sucking motion.

This answer is update-ware: if you use one of these cures and it works (or even if it doesn't) I politely request that you let us know for the education and amusement of all concerned. I know hiccups are painful, but they're still funny.
posted by metaBugs at 6:48 AM on October 11, 2009 [7 favorites]

Best answer: A friend of mine is a doctor and they gave me this absolutely reliable and completely effective remedy:
Obtain 1 large glass of water and 1 drinking straw.
Put your fingers in your ears, exactly as though you were attempting to block a loud noise.
Through the straw, since both hands are occupied, drink the entire glass of water without stopping.

This is works every single time and on everyone I've ever suggested it to, even on chronic hiccup-ers.
posted by Jon-o at 6:48 AM on October 11, 2009 [10 favorites]

I used to get hiccups a lot and one method my mother, a nurse, used to cure me was lighting a book of matches, dropping the matches into a glass of water, and then drinking the water. I have no idea if this is poisonous or harmful, so I can't really recommend it-- but it didn't seem to have any detrimental affects on me. However, these days I just use the paper bag method. That always works.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:10 AM on October 11, 2009

So I should have googled first, and responded second. Sorry. Turns out the "match trick" has been around for a long time and you should only use one match.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:16 AM on October 11, 2009

Here to second Jon-o's method, although I usually have a family member plug my ears for me and I pinch my nose, for good measure. Works every time!
posted by Syllables at 7:16 AM on October 11, 2009

Another no-fail home remedy: get peanut butter and stick a glob on the roof of your mouth and SLOWLY use your tongue to scrape and swallow bit by bit. Yes, you will hiccup along the way but have faith. It can take up to an hour to work, but I've never seen this fail. Just don't stop.

If you can't stomach this; you can mimic the motion without peanut butter. Less tasty but equally effective.
posted by dzaz at 7:23 AM on October 11, 2009

Best answer: i used to get hiccups pretty frequently (3 times a week or so) and i tried a lot of different methods. the scaring never worked, and the plugging your ears while drinking didn't work. i'm not sure where i heard about this trick, but it works for me every time.

fill a glass of water. breathe in, then take 8 gulps in a row. don't stop to take a breath, just take 8 gulps (swallowing after each). if you do that and you still hiccup, try it again, and try to gulp faster.
posted by gursky at 8:05 AM on October 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

zoey08 is right about the sugar. Hiccups happen because the vagus nerve (which runs from your brain to your stomach) is misfiring. Get a glass of water and a big spoonful of sugar. Put all the sugar in your mouth at once and drink it down in one huge gulp. Don't let it sit on your tongue, otherwise your saliva will start to break it down and your body will be ready for it. What you want to do is fire all that sugar down to your stomach all at once. When it gets there, your stomach is going to be all "OH MY GOD SUGAR" and immediately send an SOS signal to your brain (using the vagus nerve) to tell it that the stomach's going to be needing to focus on the sugar for a while. The sudden sugar shock with re-set the misfiring nerve, and your hiccups should be gone. It has never not worked for me.

Good luck!
posted by phunniemee at 8:07 AM on October 11, 2009 [5 favorites]

Bizarre as it sounds, I've seen the method Jon-o work a couple of times -- try it. (And your abdomen's going to be sore from the workout it's gotten.)
posted by Zed at 8:08 AM on October 11, 2009

I usually take really deep breathes and do yoga when they're bad and it works (with the idea being to sooth diaphragm) not sure if it has any basis in science, though.
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 8:13 AM on October 11, 2009

+1 on the mouthful of peanut butter or sugar, only remedy that's worked for me
posted by ijoyner at 8:13 AM on October 11, 2009

Jon-o's method usually works for me. The other method that always works for my students is if I offer them $10 to hiccup again. They never can. It works on me too.
posted by sadtomato at 8:16 AM on October 11, 2009

I do the drinking a glass of water/liquid, too, nonstop, without the ears/nose plugging. Works every time.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:19 AM on October 11, 2009

Seconding drinking from the other side of the glass (by bending over and putting your mouth on the rim farthest from you). It's a little odd, but it always works for me.
posted by kimdog at 8:29 AM on October 11, 2009

maggiemae's method always works for me. I know that some folks have trouble doing this — they end up spilling water everywhere, or it comes out their nose — so an alternative is to take a generous gulp of water, hold it in your mouth and bend over when you swallow. Repeat, in rapid succession. And yeah, if they're not gone by tomorrow, a call to the doctor sounds like it might be in order.
posted by lovermont at 8:36 AM on October 11, 2009

My boyfriend's method, which has about a 98 percent success rate for both of us:

1. Breathe in while slowly mentally counting to 10; alternately, have someone else count for you. But breathe in for 10 counts.

2. Hold your breath for 10 counts.

3. Breathe out slowly for 10 counts.

This seems to help reset your breathing/muscle control. If it doesn't work the first time, do it again a second time, and make sure to count slowly.
posted by limeonaire at 8:39 AM on October 11, 2009

This is sort of a "drink water from the opposite side of the glass" suggestion, but a bit more hardcore.

1) Get a bottle of water.
2) Head to a couch or other raised, flat surface. A table works in a pinch.
3) Lie down.
4) Lean your head over the edge and pinch your nose.
5) Carefully, take a gulp of water while your head's hanging upside-down. Force swallow.
6) Repeat two or three times.

Voila! Your hiccups should be gone. It's the same principle of drinking from the other side of the glass, but I think the additional upside-down pressure helps, too. I've never had this method fail me yet!

Before I discovered this method, I could never get hiccups to go away. In elementary school, I was often banished to the water fountain because my hiccups were too intense for the other students "to study."
posted by ElectricBlue at 8:58 AM on October 11, 2009

Jon-O's method works for me too, but I just have to hold my nose, and the straw is optional.

A particularly pleasant method, however, is to have a long French kiss with someone. Stops 'em dead.
posted by fightorflight at 9:06 AM on October 11, 2009

Response by poster: Hi all. I started at the top and worked my way down. The 8 gulps did the trick!

...for about 20 minutes. I'm hiccuping again. My (whatever) muscle is sore as hell, which makes this extra aggravating. While I wasn't hiccuping, I constantly felt like I had to, that feeling you get when they're normally coming on. Fwiw, I'm in my mid-30s and are generally healthy as a horse.

I am going to try the gulps and everything else again.

If nothing works, I shall attempt the Ig Nobel.
posted by unixrat at 9:30 AM on October 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

(try the sugar thing...seriously)
posted by phunniemee at 9:52 AM on October 11, 2009

It's possible to suffer a lot longer than 24 hours... Your situation won't be that bad at least, even if it goes for a whole 'nother day or something.

Most methods are ways to alter your rate of breathing or distract you significantly. You could try some kind of exercise, or meditation/relaxation. If you still have them when you're ready to go to bed, maybe turn up the music really loud and take a nice warm bath and really just try to forget - I'd bet there's a component of getting too stressed about it that makes it harder to get rid of... kind of a vicious circle.
posted by mdn at 11:04 AM on October 11, 2009

I usually do deep-breathing exercises I learned when I was going through voice training in high school (no, I can't sing anymore, since you ask). When you breathe in, do your best to breathe in with your mouth slowly, without raising your shoulders; your stomach should expand, your shoulders shouldn't rise. This doesn't always help me, so I then try to lean over a bannister or chair or something and put pressure on the area around the diaphragm.

But seriously, call a doctor if something doesn't help soon. Good luck.
posted by neewom at 11:09 AM on October 11, 2009

I used to work in a bar, and this was my go-to solution when a patron got the hiccups. It's never failed me:

Take a lemon wedge (or slice), cover it in sugar (about a tablespoon), and douse it with a couple of dashes of (angostura) bitters. Bite/suck the whole lot down at once, like after doing a tequila shot.

This is basically a variant on the sugar trick upthread, and I don't know why (beyond the explanation phunniemee gives), but I've never seen it not work. My theory is that the lemon + bitters make you swallow the sugar down right away with minimal salivary preprocessing.
posted by axiom at 11:52 AM on October 11, 2009

take a multivitamin?
posted by gensubuser at 12:58 PM on October 11, 2009

An orgasm has always worked for me. I understand you're around kids throughout the day, but if you can find a way to masturbate/have sex it's a surefire way to cure hiccups.

Good luck!
posted by mahoganyslide at 1:19 PM on October 11, 2009

Response by poster: Hi all.

I used the hiccups as an excuse to bring the kids to McDonalds for lunch and did the straw/ears/drink method. It worked and I've been hiccup free for a few hours now.

This was the (proverbial) last straw before the Ig Nobel, sorry to disappoint.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the help.
posted by unixrat at 2:27 PM on October 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Awesome! I'm glad it worked. My wife is plagued with the hiccups and that's our fail-proof standby method.
And, you can do it in public. They don't look kindly upon the digital rectal massage at the Mickey-Dee's.
posted by Jon-o at 3:36 PM on October 11, 2009

Response by poster: Update: ha ha oh god I'm hiccuping again. Well it was a nice 4 hour reprieve. I need to invest in straws.
posted by unixrat at 3:44 PM on October 11, 2009

Response by poster: Right so kids are gone. I had put them to the task of 'scaring' me, which meant that they spent the day jumping out from behind doors and making elaborate plans tolure me into scare traps. It was a lot of fun, actually.

Back to the problem at hand. I tried the gulping again, failed me this time. I don't have any straws, but I suppose I could jump in te car and get a box from the grocery store.

Before I do that, I'm going to take the advice given earlier and rub one out, for science.

Failing that, it's time for the nuclear option. Stay tuned.
posted by unixrat at 4:43 PM on October 11, 2009

Get someone to stand behind you and grasp the tops of your ears, fold them over slightly, and then yank them (upwards) suddenly.

It works best if you don't know what they're about to do, but as long as there's some element of surprise (timing) then it should work OK.

My brother did this to me a few times and it worked a treat; however, I once attempted to do it to a hiccoughing friend in Spanish class, earning freaked-out looks from everyone around us, and it did NOT work. That was embarrassing and I think some of my classmates thought of me as the freaky ear-puller for ever after... So, choose your audience wisely!

Hope you recover soon!
posted by badmoonrising at 5:22 PM on October 11, 2009

I too am a chronic hiccuper. My stand by cure for anyone else who has hiccups is to ask them to tell me the next time they are going to hiccup before they hiccup. And then ask them again. And if they don't answer before hiccuping, I berate them for not paying attention and ask them again. And so on.

Sadtomato suggested much the same thing. The key here is to focus on the mechanism, on the muscle twitching, until you rationalize it to stop. It does take a considerable amount of concentration, but it's kind of awesome when you get it to stop.

If they won't stop by tomorrow (Monday) morning, call your GP and ask for a single dose of muscle relaxant (or whatever she recommends) to help you not spasm yourself to madness. It's pretty much all they will give you if you go to an emergency room.
posted by nursegracer at 6:27 PM on October 11, 2009

Er... more seriously, prolonged hiccuping (in the order of a couple of days or more) can occasionally be indicative of an underlying health problem. If it keeps coming back and/or you're still hiccuping tomorrow, you should consider talking to a doctor about it. If nothing else s/he might have another cure suggestion, or at least something to make it less uncomfortable until it stops.
posted by metaBugs at 6:39 PM on October 11, 2009

Try the lemon suggestion. That always works like a charm for me. And you don't have to do the sugar and bitters. Just biting into a lemon wedge and gulping the juice has yet to fail me.
posted by MsMolly at 7:31 PM on October 11, 2009

The commonality of many of the "ingestion" cures is to keep you continuously swallowing for some period of time. a spoonful of sugar or a slice of lemon will trigger your salivary glands so that you're constantly half-swallowing to keep your mouth dry. For my mom it was orange juice, to the extent that *thinking* about orange juice would cure her hiccups. Never worked for me, because I don't like orange juice, so it didn't make me salivate. My personal cure: a glass of water, or water fountain, or any liquid. Spend at least a full minute taking quick tiny sips nonstop.

I am not an anatomist, but I think it's something like curing calf cramps by patting your foot, flexing one muscle makes the opposing one relax - when you're swallowing, that's requiring that the muscles in your chest do things that are not spasming? But the take-away message here is, no matter how you inspire yourself to flex your throat, and no matter why that swallowing action calms hiccups, there's at least some correlation.

Sorry the relief with past attempts was only temporary!
posted by aimedwander at 7:39 AM on October 12, 2009

The bartender's lemon trick with the bitters has always worked for me.
posted by Caviar at 8:01 AM on October 15, 2009

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