Nothing makes a person sound more like a drunken Disney sidekick than a case of the hiccups. But what's the best way to get rid of the embarrassing, involuntary gasps? And how can we avoid getting them in the first place? With a little innovation and elbow grease, but mostly via MacGyvering.
Thanks to my having read far too many articles about people who had the hiccups for 50 years, every time I had a case that lasted for more than ten minutes, I feared that this was going to be my new reality for the rest of my life. I was going to die hiccuping. But thanks to a plethora of readily available cures, this doesn't have to be the case. I hope.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, say things that were cross stitched before it was uncool to cross stitch earnest things (a modern translation of that cross stitched pillow would "An Ounce of Translation is Worth a Tall Glass of Shut the Fuck Up" or something). That being said, let's talk ways to stop the hiccups before they start. Basically, hiccups happen when your diaphragm (the muscle that helps you inhale, not the rubber thing your mom used to keep herself from getting pregnant in the 80's) is irritated, so if you want to avoid hiccups, don't piss it off. Large meals make your diaphragm angry, and it gets really neurotic around spicy foods. And — sorry winos — drinking alcohol or cold beverages can irritate it as well.
Cures for the hiccups seem to fall into a few categories.
First, there's the holding your breath/drinking water category, which seems to be a favorite among this outfit's staff. Jessica says she inhales at the very end of a hiccup, and holds her breath for as long as she can. Anna goes a little more superstitious with her hiccup cures, holding her breath for seven seconds and then taking seven sips of water (but if you're feeling punk rock and are comfortable with the idea of possibly burning in hell forever, go ahead and take your eternal chances with six). Madeleine introduces modified calisthenics into her hiccup cure by holding her breath while chugging a glass of water, and then bending over and continuing to hold her breath while touching her toes for 30 seconds. You can also bend at the waist and drink a glass of water upside down, from the opposite end of the cup (see illustration for guide). You can also chug a glass of water while another person plugs your ears, but that version requires a friend, or a creepily friendly stranger who is cool with touching your ears.
There are food and prop-based cures as well. You can try chewing and swallowing a piece of dry bread to combat your embarrassing hiccups. A spoonful of sugar makes both the medicine and the diaphragm spasms go down. I've heard that breathing deeply into a paper bag can also banish your hics, but it makes you look unhinged. Deploy with caution. If you've got some cotton lying around, use it to tickle the back of the roof of your mouth, right behind the little speedbump-like bone formation. You can also try pulling out your tongue and holding it for a few seconds.
When you've exhausted your food and water and breath holding options, you can move on to the psychological games. Being scared is a great way to get rid of hiccups, but it's hard to get scared if you expect it; it's like tickling yourself. Dodai has a great remedy that her sister, who might be dabbling in black magic, deploys when she has a case of the hiccups.
Dodai: i'll be like
Dodai: i have the hiccups
Dodai: and she'll say something like oh too bad, you know what i wanted to ask you?
Dodai: do you have that $20 you owe me?
Dodai: and i'll say WHAT TWENTY DOLLARS? I NEVER BORROW FROM YOU all huffy
Dodai: and she'll go yeah but your hiccups are gone right?
Dodai: and they always are
It doesn't have to be an accusation of an unsettled debt, that rids the sufferer of hiccups, though. It can be a made-up tale of a borrowed tee shirt, a mistold story that makes the hiccup sufferer sound like a jerk, anything that causes a sharp intake of breath. My psychological trick is that I look in the mirror and tell myself to hiccup. I can't do it. I'm not sure if this is a function of my being rebellious or compliant.
So, there you have it. How to swallow, breathe, sugar, or scare your way out of a nasty case of hiccups. If none of these work, try your own at-home remedy, or accept the fact that you'll be hiccuping for the rest of your life.
Image by Jim Cooke, original photo via Dmitry Lobanov/Shutterstock