One More Cure for Hiccups

I’ve written previously about how Paul Ingraham helped cure my patello-femoral pain syndrome.

More recently, Paul looked into hiccup cures because his father had an intractable case. What finally worked for dad? Breathing into a plastic bag.

Boosting blood CO2 (hypercapnia) by breathing in a PLASTIC bag. This one is quite plausible and is easy and safe to try. Hypercapnia definitely affects some kinds of hiccups. The story (from a smart source, a good “friend of PainSci”): “There’s an even easier way out of hiccups — at zero cost. Learned it from my uncle, who studied medicine in Brazil in the 50s. Anesthetized patients with hiccups were a pain, so they needed to get rid of it ASAP. Method: breathing in a PLASTIC bag, small enough for you to get to hypercapnia (get higher blood levels of CO2). You have to hold the bag REALLY tight around nose and mouth to prevent air from escaping, and if you have troubles with dizziness, it’s advisable to sit down for it. As soon as it gets uncomfortable, mostly after 4-6 breaths, you can stop, the hiccup will be gone. I don’t know what this does to the phrenic nerve, but it works 100%.”

Safety Note: Obviously there could be some danger with this method. If he’d had low O2 or was struggling for breath, we likely wouldn’t have dared. (On the other hand, if he’d been in that state, he would’ve been at the hospital.) But he was supervised, with no possibility of getting stuck, and a matter of only just a few breaths. Perhaps there was still some risk… but I think not treating those hiccups was also a risk.

I’ve never tried that method for my hiccups. My personal favorite home remedy is “drinking from the far side of the glass.” AKA, drinking water upside down. Watch this video of a good ol’ boy demonstrating the technique although I would aim for drinking at least 6-8 fl oz of water before quitting. Don’t ask me how it works; it may have something to do with the soft palate or diaphragm.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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