Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hic Town

One of my college roommates/besties just had a baby girl named Kyla, who is maybe the cutest thing going in the under-two-week set. While I was over there gaping and marveling at her teeny little fingernails and eyelashes, she did something amazing. (No, she didn't talk. Seriously, get real). She hiccuped. And her mom (weird, my friend is a mom) said that she has had hiccups a lot (I mean, a lot for an 8-day old), and that the doctor said that some people are just more prone to them than others. And when I heard that, my affection and sense of loyalty to this little squirmer - which were already pretty high for someone I just met - shot off the charts, because suddenly I knew that she and I had something in common (I mean, in addition to our favorite hobbies- sleeping and eating). Because, I am ALSO a hiccup-afflicted individual! And before you wiseacres pipe in, it's not just because I drink a lot of beer, so shut it- I've been hiccuping abnormally oftenly since I was but a tiny tot myself. In fact, my mom says I got them moments after I emerged from the womb, although I can't verify that information myself, because I don't remember that day very clearly. I was probably too distracted by the hiccups to take much notice of anything.

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.


Kat said...

baby hiccups are adorable! Our puppy actually used to hiccup a lot when she was younger, whenever she was excited or confused or just generally happy to be confused by the world. It was really funny and us laughing would usually make them worse, since that'd just confuse her further! She still does it on occasion, but not as much.

Jessica said...

Great tips...and very interesting too! My boyfriend's daughter got the hiccups the other day and when I told her to drink water upside down she looked at me like I was a crazy person! That was always my 'go-to' trick as a kid.
And I liked your Vegus joke...haha!

April of Smidge Of This said...

Nice on the Vegus joke, it was totally worth it!

My no-fail trick is a napkin placed over the mouth of a glass of water. Just drink a few sips of the water through the napkin like a filter(no need to do it upside down) and the hiccups will be gone.

Mister Sharaf said...

great advices

Kelley said...

Years ago Mom (Liz down the path at Higgins) got a case when we went out to eat one night. The bartender brought over some drops of Bitters (Angostura?)on an orange slice. She ate the orange and they were gone. Easier than standing on your head if you are in a bar.

kate said...

nana (bitsy up the path the other way) tells my kids to look her straight in the eye then she tells them that she'll give them a quarter (ok, a dollar now that they are older) if they will hiccup again. they immediately stop hiccupping.

Anonymous said...

And to give credit where credit is due... The "look me in the eye" cure came originally from Jerry Kerns (another Higgins up-the-path pal). It works every time! "I'll give you a dollar if you can hiccup just ONE more time!"

Lily said...

@Kat: I think any baby anything doing anything is cute, but a puppy with hiccups might be the cutest.
@Jessica:Totally works every time. Did she try it?
@April: Smart- I will try this for sure.
@Kelley: Must work the same way as the sugar, only bitter! Bartenders can be so wise.
@Kate & Bitsy: I literally cannot wait for someone to get the hiccups so I can try this! I might have to start hanging around a bar...if only for the bartender wisdom.

Amanda said...

My second grade teacher taught me to cover my ears and swallow three times. It nearly always works for me, though it also gets me a lot of strange looks.

When I was pregnant with my son, he hiccuped all the time, in the womb. That's GOT to be the strangest feeling in the world...your stomach rythmically bouncing, and there's not a thing you can do about it!

megan said...

I've found that holding your breath works best..especially if you visualize your diaphragm (the one attached to your lungs) pushing itself down into an inverted cone shape and remaining in that position until you release your breath. That works because hiccups are actually a spasm of the diaphragmatic muscles. When you breathe in, breathe in with your mouth closed, through your nostrils...you will be able to sustain the breath longer and the breath will be more refreshing. It will do wonders for your singing and promotes good sleep if you suffer from insomnia. Good luck!

Tayla said...

A spoonful of peanut butter usually does the trick for me. And it's a great excuse to have a spoonful of peanut butter...