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Need a cure for hiccups? Here are a few almost foolproof ways


This could happen to anybody. We laugh too hard or eat too fast and suddenly we're stuck with hiccups that can last for minutes or even hours.


Writer Uri Bram was out with his girlfriend a while back when she got the hiccups.

URI BRAM: So I googled how to cure hiccups.

INSKEEP: He didn't find many medical solutions. He did find plenty of home remedies.

BRAM: There are various people who claim that if you hold down your left ear, specifically your left ear, that will stop your hiccups. And then there's lots of variations of drinking water out of the back of the glass, out of the side of the glass, cold water, ice water, whatever you can imagine.


NEKO CASE AND HER BOYFRIENDS: (Singing) I got the honky tonk hiccups - ready, steady, go. I got the honky tonk hiccups...

INSKEEP: His search for a cure helped him to learn more than he ever wanted to know about hiccups.

MARTÍNEZ: He wrote about his discoveries in the latest issue of The Atlantic.

BRAM: Hiccups - technically, they're called singultus. Your diaphragm occasionally falls into these spasms, and once they start, the nerves just keep telling the diaphragm to spasm. And then you breathe in the air, that hits the closed vocal cord area and that makes the hic sound.

MARTÍNEZ: Bram says there's been surprisingly little research on hiccups.

BRAM: There's only really been two minor scientific forays into hiccups that I could find that showed a particular solution really works.

INSKEEP: One of those solutions is a drinking straw developed by a doctor at the University of Texas named Ali Seifi. It was a big hit on the TV show "Shark Tank."

BRAM: He built a special kind of straw that has a very small hole at the bottom and a big hole at the top. And it takes a lot of effort to suck through the straw. And this stabilizes the diaphragm with enough pressure that your hiccups will stop.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, if you don't want to pay 13 bucks for the HiccAway straw, here's a cure that's free. It's a breathing technique recommended by a surgeon named Luc Morris.

BRAM: You take in a very deep breath.

INSKEEP: (Taking deep breath) Hold it for 10 seconds.

BRAM: And then you top it up with a little bit more breath.

INSKEEP: (Breathing in).

MARTÍNEZ: Then hold it for another five.

BRAM: And then you top it up with a little bit more breath again.

INSKEEP: And then exhale (exhaling).

BRAM: This, again, like, stabilizes the diaphragm in a way that seems to consistently stop hiccups.

MARTÍNEZ: Dr. Morris published his cure for hiccups nearly 20 years ago. So why do so few people know about it?

BRAM: Well, that was exactly my question and how I started writing the article. And as best I can tell, there's just no money in it. Effectively, what it comes down to is no one could pay for further studies. There's no drug you can sell. There's no tool or device. So there was no way to take the research further.

INSKEEP: Now, this breathing technique isn't perfect, but seems to be effective. And if it doesn't work for you, remember, you could always try singing next time you get the hiccups - some folks swear by it - or hold your breath and take five sips of water, which is a solution I saw once on "The Andy Griffith Show."

MARTÍNEZ: Or how's for this thinking outside the voice box - just wait for the hiccups to go away. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.