17 hours ago
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Anyway, all of this is to say that over the intervening years, I have become a bit of an expert on the hiccups- what they are, why they happen, and how to get rid of them, as I suspect my friend's poor baby will have to do, as well, as a fellow sufferer, once she is no longer a baby. So, as a gift to this wee human (who needs another bib?), I decided to put down the veritable hiccup encyclopedia that I have in my brain for posterity. I give you:
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Hiccups if You Are a Baby or Adult Who Gets Hiccups A Lot
What Are Hiccups?
Hiccups, or hiccoughs, if you like to spell things the pretentious way, are involuntary spasms of the diaphragm or esophagus caused by a reflex triggered by the vagus nerve. You don't really need to know that, except if you are ever on a game show, and they ask you that specific question (if that happens, you should probably send me some of the money you win- it's only fair). Also, it's good to understand that for when I reference the vagus nerve in a pun the next paragraph.
What Causes Them?
There are many ways of overstimulating or irritating the vagus nerve, triggering hiccups. You can do it by eating too fast, or too much, or spicy foods, by swallowing air, taking some medications, laughing a lot, or drinking alcohol or carbonated beverages- pretty much anything fun). In other words, what happens in vagus does not stay in vagus. (That joke was so worth it). So, theoretically, you could try to avoid getting the hiccups by eating small, bland meals very slowly, accompanied by flat, non-alcoholic beverages for the rest of your life. Or you can just find yourself a sure-fire, never-fail, hiccup cure, and be happy. Here's what works for me.
How to Cure Hiccups
The way to cure hiccups is to essentially "reset" the vagus nerve by stimulating it in another way. Here are some methods that work:
1. Hold Your Breath: Interrupting your breathing patterns typically will end your hiccups. The best way I've found is to take in a deep breath and hold it as long as you can, while swallowing a few times. Hold your breath until you turn red in the face, and then a few seconds after that.
2. Drink Water Upside-Down: This is the cure that works the most consistently for me. Unfortunately, it also is the most ridiculous-looking one. Fill a glass of water to the brim, plant your feet a few feet apart, bend at the waist, and drink from the wrong side of the glass.
3. Sugar Overload- Put a tablespoon of sugar or a sugar cube in your mouth and let it dissolve on your tongue. The extreme sweetness will jar your nerves.
4. Pull On Your Tongue- No idea why this works, but it does- stick out your tongue, grab it with your fingers, and pull it outward for a few seconds.
5. Get Tickled- Seriously, if the thought doesn't make you super uncomfortable, ask someone to tickle you- it will make the hiccups disappear. Personally, I'd rather drink water upside-down.
6. Take an Antacid- Antacids containing magnesium (Rolaids, Milk of Magnesia) can help calm the nerves, almost instantly.
"Cures" That Aren't Worth It
Sadly, because everyone and their mom has a favorite hiccups cure, there are a lot of terrible ones floating around out there. These ones might work, but just don't seem worth the effort, really.
1. Drink Vinegar- Um, gross. Also, all that acid can't be good for your teeth.
2. Get Scared- Seriously, have you ever seen this work? There's nothing scary about your friend saying "boo" when you're expecting it.
3. Stand On Your Head: Oh, for Pete's sake. What's more inconvenient- finding a place to safely stand on your head without flashing the other bar patrons, or having the hiccups for a few minutes? (Kyla, honey, Aunt Lily will explain what "flashing" and "bars" are when you're a little older).
One final note: if your hiccups last longer than a couple hours, or are impeding your ability to eat or sleep, stop reading blogs, and go see a medical professional.