Hic. Hic. There it goes again. Hic. Although a momentary nuisance for most people, hiccups have engendered a legion of home remedies, each with its own army of true believers.
The best remedies try to block the reflex in your diaphragm -- the muscle wall that controls breathing from the bottom of the rib cage. Hiccups happen when the diaphragm becomes irritated and contracts irregularly. The contraction causes you to inhale, but your breath is blocked by the glottis, the opening of your windpipe. It's a standoff between two reflexes -- the diaphragm, which starts the breath, and the glottis, which stops it.
Experts aren't sure exactly what triggers hiccups to occur, but two common causes are overeating and drinking too much alcohol. Rarely, they may be a sign of a serious illness, such as kidney or liver disease.
Left alone, hiccups probably will go away after a few minutes. But that short time can seem an eternity, so here are a few of the most effective remedies:
1. Holding your breath for as long as you can then, exhale. Inhale and hold your breath again. Do this for several cycles until hiccups stop. Holding your breath causes a buildup of carbon dioxide, which drives the breathing response, and breaks the cycle of hiccups.
2. Chill it: Apply ice to the side of the Adam's apple. Cold can block the reflex pathway of nerves that carry the signals for hiccups. (Ice should not be applied to the pulse points in your neck or with a lot of pressure; both can affect your blood pressure.)
3. Sweeten it: Swallow a teaspoon of dry sugar. The action of swallowing sugar interferes with the signals that trigger hiccups.
4. Gulp it: Drink water from the far lip of a cup, tipping your head forward so the water runs down the back of your throat.
Find out what works for you. Your spell of hiccups may even subside by itself before you get through the list of remedies.