Drop the Peanut Butter: Here's How to Really Get Rid of the Hiccups, According to Doctors

No, asking someone to scare you won't work, either—but these simple, breath-focused remedies should, experts say.

Woman with the hiccups eats ice cream happily

We've all been there: After laughing hysterically with friends, drinking something carbonated too quickly, or completing a rigorous workout, we get the hiccups. No matter the circumstance, the hiccups aren't exactly pleasant—so you probably want to know how to cure them quickly.

There are so many old wives' tales that promise a fast fix—which is why you've likely spooned down some peanut butter, held your breath, bit into a lemon, or asked someone to scare your hiccups away (boo!). No, these well-known solutions probably won't work, but they're so pervasive, they've been mentioned in a study published in the National Library of Medicine.

To help you stop hiccuping stat, we checked in with doctors, who recommended a few expert-approved remedies you can try at home.

Hiccups, Explained

Hiccups occur when a quick, abrupt rush of air into the lungs creates a "hic" noise, according to the National Library of Medicine study. As for why they happen? "Hiccups are involuntary spasms of the diaphragm," says Amy Shah, MD, a double board-certified medical doctor and author. "[They] cause your vocal cords to close very briefly."

You can usually avoid common triggers of hiccups, like overeating or eating too quickly, drinking hot or carbonated beverages too fast, over-consuming alcohol, swallowing air, or quickly sucking in air, says Jill Carnahan, MD, a board-certified physician and author of Unexpected.

How to Get Rid of Hiccups

The most effective method for getting rid of hiccups is actually doing nothing, says Dr. Shah. "Hiccups often resolve on their own and don't need immediate intervention," she says.

If they don't go away after a few minutes, you'll need to try to calm the diaphragm spasm. The following doctor-recommended methods are known as valsalva maneuvers, which increase the pressure in your chest and may stimulate the vagus nerve (which is linked to the diaphragm) to stop hiccups, explains Dr. Carnahan.

  • Drink cold water.
  • Take slow, deep breaths. Breathe in and out three times; repeat every 20 minutes.
  • Hold your nose and swallow.
  • Gargle with cold water.
  • Check your heart rate variability (HRV)—you can do this on your smart watch—which measures the time between each heartbeat and is connected to your breathing. Also consider using an app like Heartmath to do breath work and improve HRV. "This is a form of biofeedback and has been used to treat migraine headaches, tension headaches, fibromyalgia, anxiety disorders, and surprisingly, hiccups," says Dr. Carnahan.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Most of the time, the hiccups are over as soon as they start. These acute episode typically last for just a few minutes (though it's not impossible to have the hiccups for an hour or two). Persistent episodes last for about two days—and an intractable episode extends beyond one month. "Professional care should be sought for persistent symptoms lasting more than 48 hours or which come back frequently to rule out serious underlying causes," says Dr. Carnahan.

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