Of all the tics and twitches to afflict mankind, hiccups can be among the most annoying. These stutter-steps of the diaphragm appear to start and stop at their own convenience, leaving the sufferer to seek out new and better home remedies for hiccups. Not even medical professionals and researchers can agree on the root cause of hiccups, but one popular belief is that hiccups are triggered by ingesting too much air, possibly by eating or drinking too fast. Other sources suggest hiccups are primitive reflex actions whose purpose has been lost over time.
While science continues to look for a satisfactory cause of hiccups, a number of home remedies have become popular over the years. Some have been proven less effective than first believed, while others have been deemed totally ineffective or even dangerous. In general, an average case of hiccups should resolve itself within a few hours of onset, but some people have been known to experience periodic hiccups for days or even weeks.
One of the most popular home remedies for hiccups involves breathing into a brown paper bag. The original belief was that by breathing into a small bag sealed around the mouth, the concentrated carbon dioxide would somehow calm the twitching diaphragm. Others believed that the calming effect of controlled breathing would relax the diaphragm and end the hiccups. Neither concept appears to work very effectively, but some modern practitioners suggest breathing hard into the bag ten times. The forced breathing may restore the natural contractions of the diaphragm.
Other home remedies for hiccups suggest swallowing dry ingredients. Swallowing a small amount of dry sugar is said to stimulate the throat, possibly releasing trapped air. A portion of dry bread or saltine cracker crumbs can be used to achieve the same effect. The success rate of this dry swallowing method is not encouragingly high, however.
Some home remedies recommend swallowing liquids instead of dry ingredients. Drinking a small cup of water while simultaneously blocking your ears may create a vacuum powerful enough to release the ingested air. Some suggest drinking a small amount of water while positioned upside-down, either through a headstand or by leaning over a sink. The belief is that the act of forceful swallowing should realign the diaphragm and end the hiccups.
Another popular home remedy for hiccups involves holding the breath. Once a sufferer senses an impending hiccup, he or she should perform a dry swallow. Children suffering from hiccups may also be cured by holding their breath while being tickled. Resistance to laughter may trigger a gasping response which puts everything back in order. While holding one's breath is a popular remedy, some suggest performing the exact opposite action. Blowing air out in a steady, controlled stream may force the diaphragm to contract and end the spasms.
There are literally dozens of other home remedies for hiccups, many involving manipulation of the tongue, roof of the mouth or back of the throat. Whether or not these home remedies are effective will continue to be a matter for debate. The important thing to remember is that almost all incidents of hiccups subside naturally within hours of onset, so never allow a home remedy to put you at risk for other complications such as choking or suffocation.