We've all had them -- and chances are, we all swear by a different way of getting rid of them. But do your favorite hiccup cures really work?
The contractions can be caused by everything from eating too much, drinking carbonated beverages, or overdoing it on the alcohol, as well as stress or even sudden changes in the temperature, according to the Mayo Clinic.
There may be some survival benefit to hiccups: In the process, the windpipe is closed off, according to Dr. Oz, so you can't breathe food particles into the lungs.
Albeit annoying, hiccups are rarely much of a health concern, and most of the time stop on their own in a matter of minutes. But in rare cases, hiccups have lasted longer -- and have even been signifiers of a more serious health issue. One patient hiccuped continually for 60 years, according to "Today." A man who claimed to have hiccuped for three years straight was found to have a tumor pinching nerves that controlled his breathing, the Sun reported. And earlier this year, a man with a nonstop case of the hiccups was found to have actually suffered a small heart attack.
You likely have your own favorite method for getting rid of the hiccups when you really just can't wait them out. You probably even have a remedy you swear works 100 -- okay, maybe 95 -- percent of the time. But there's really only anecdotal evidence that any of these methods truly works. We asked Brian Udermann, Ph.D., an exercise and sports science professor at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse and the author of “25 Ways to Cure the Hiccups: Uncovering the Truth Behind 101 Common Myths and Misconceptions” to take a few guesses.
There are seemingly endless hiccup remedies that involve some sort of alternate breathing method, from holding your breath to taking deep breaths to holding your breath while plugging your ears. "Anything you do in regard to your breath, it's possible that you could disrupt that nerve impulse from the brain to the diaphragm so you stop the hiccups," says Udermann. A little extra carbon dioxide may also help to <a href="http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/hiccups" target="_hplink">relax the diaphragm</a>, according to Dr. Oz, although we don't know exactly why. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/search/?ss=2&w=14168366%40N08&q=holding+breath&m=text" target="_hplink">Camera on autopilot</a></em>
Take A Drink
There may be even more claims of water-based ways to stop the hiccups than there are breathing tricks. Among the many we've heard: Drink from the opposite side of the glass, drink through a straw (with <em>and</em> without plugging your ears), drink through a napkin or towel and drink a big glass of water without stopping. Swallowing -- which, when you think about it, is a temporary change in your breathing, says Udermann -- <a href="http://www.readersdigest.ca/health/home-remedies/7-ways-get-rid-hiccups" target="_hplink">may override those diaphragm spasms</a>, according to Reader's Digest Canada. "It doesn't matter if you drink upside down or sideways or from a spoon," says Udermann. "It's that <em>act</em> that could be disruptive." <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/eschipul/6813608863/" target="_hplink">eschipul</a></em>
"What works in our house is a teaspoon of sugar," says Udermann. "You eat it, and they're gone, 99 percent of the time." Others swear by a spoonful of peanut butter or ice cream. We've even heard biting into a slice of lemon coated in sugar and bitters can do the trick. But there's not likely anything specific about the peanut butter or the sugar or the bitters that's easing those hiccups. Like with drinking and breathing tricks, eating has the potential to affect your breath and therefore your diaphragm, says Udermann. We can't help but remind you though that that spoonful of sugar is just that, a spoon full of sugar, and it counts, calorically. Women should aim to eat <a href="http://www.rodale.com/recommended-sugar-intake" target="_hplink">fewer than 5 teaspoons of sugar a day</a>, men 9 and kids about 3, so you might want to try other remedies first!
Stick Out Your Tongue
When you stick out or even pull on your tongue, you stimulate a part of the throat connected to the nasal passage called the <a href="http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/pharynx" target="_hplink">nasopharynx</a> and the <a href="http://www.readersdigest.ca/health/home-remedies/7-ways-get-rid-hiccups" target="_hplink">opening between the vocal cords</a>, which may offer some relief. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/xlordashx/4081277075/" target="_hplink">xlordashx</a></em>
A little scare could work for two reasons. First of all, it's likely to change your breathing cycle -- hear that gasp you just made? It may also work as a <a href="http://health.howstuffworks.com/diseases-conditions/respiratory/hiccup2.htm" target="_hplink">mental distraction, which seems to quell hiccups</a>. Want proof? Have someone ask you to hiccup on the spot, and see what happens, suggests Discovery Health.
<em>Reader's Digest Canada</em> also suggests squeezing your palm -- hard -- to <a href="http://www.readersdigest.ca/health/home-remedies/7-ways-get-rid-hiccups" target="_hplink">distract your nervous system</a> away from hiccuping to the sensation of mild pain instead. This may work similarly to the way that slapping or pinching yourself can <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/20/natural-mosquito-bite-treatment_n_1610186.html#slide=1116830" target="_hplink">distract from an itchy mosquito bite</a>.