Crowd Sourcing a Cure: Sidesplitting Folk Medical Advice from the Internet

Having just recovered from a nasty case of strep throat, I was reflecting on how – aside from my annual Streptococcus infection and a few minor injuries – my health is pretty darn good.

And then I got hiccups.

For two days.

Suddenly, visions of my future with intractable hiccups flooded my imagination:  (Hic.)

Maybe I’ll have hiccups for another day, or maybe for the next 40 years. Hic. That’s a thing, right? Hic.  I could learn to live with it.  Hic. I work from home, on my computer mostly. Hic. So, I only have to make actual human contact about once every 3 months. Hic.  As long as I never have to go on another job interview. Hic. Or make any new friends. Hic. Or be pulled over for drunk driving. Hic.  Oh, dear God somebody make this stop.

justanormalglass of water

If you drink this in a normal way, you’re doing it wrong.

After 12 hours, I was desperate for relief, and found one legitimate medical journal article on the topic. Sadly, it concluded that:

Treatment strategies for intractable hiccups remain empirical; no “evidence-based” approaches or valid recommendations can be derived…Removal of offending agents and correction of conditions or imbalances that may facilitate hiccups should constitute initial therapeutic efforts. (Walsh: Palliative Medicine , 1st ed.)

Translation? Dear Hiccup Sufferer: Screw You. Sincerely, The Medical Establishment.

And don’t think you can avoid these beastly spasms. In fact, the three primary triggers of hiccups are my three favorite things:
1) A large meal
2) Alcoholic beverages
3) Sudden excitement

Hiccups are an actual medical condition called synchronous diaphragmatic flutter. However, unlike other legitimate medical conditions, hiccups don’t inspire support groups, or charity walks or – most importantly – cutting-edge research towards finding a cure.

Why are hiccups stuck in medical limbo? While just about everyone suffers through them, hiccups have never killed anybody. There’s no measurable impact on the economy. They can’t be blamed for missed days of school or reduced productivity at work.

But the good news is that when there’s no legitimate source of scientific evidence, Folk Remedies fill in the gap!

respiratory system diagram

Please, pay no attention to this legitimate medical information!

After a full day of suffering, I decided to crowd-source my Hiccup Folk Remedy.  Turning to Facebook, Twitter, and a good old-fashioned Friday Night Cocktail Party, I discovered dozens of potential cures, all of which seemed way more fun than anything my doctor has ever prescribed.

In medical terminology, when one reviews the studies of others, it is called meta-analysis. On the internet, it’s called crowd sourcing.

As a public service, I’ve decided to save the CDC some time and publish my own crowd-sourced meta-analysis of cures for synchronous diaphragmatic flutter.

hiccup infographic

I know that you didn’t actually read this article and just skipped to the infographic.

Treatments generally fall into four main categories, which happen to mimic the main functions of life: Drinking, Eating, Breathing and Assorted Physical Stimulation.

  1. Drink a glass of water from the wrong side of the cup
  2. Drink a glass of water from between your legs
  3. Drink a glass of water while bending over backwards
  4. Drink a glass of water through a washcloth
  5. Drink a glass of water while sticking your fingers in your ears
  6. Eat a spoonful of sugar
  7. Hold a spoonful of sugar under your tongue
  8. Eat a large spoonful of peanut butter
  9. Eat a Slim Jim with a Dr. Pepper
  10. Eat a dill pickle while lying in bed
  11. Swallow whole antacid tabs
  12. Poke your tonsils with a cotton swab
  13. Pull your tongue out of your mouth with your fingers
  14. Put your fingers in your ears
  15. Hold your breath
  16. Take big, deep breaths
  17. Take quick, shallow breaths
  18. Blow on your thumb
  19. Breathe deeply while lying face-down on the floor
  20. Hold your breath while lying face-down on the floor
  21. Have someone scare you
  22. Have someone punch you in the gut
  23. Have someone point a gun at your head (Americans only)
  24. Scream as loud as you can
  25. Don’t think about your hiccups
  26. Think really hard about your hiccups
  27. Tickle yourself or order someone else to tickle you
  28. Stimulate your clitoris (sorry, guys)
  29. Use a spoon to touch your uvula, or your vulva, or both if you can’t remember which is which
  30. Rectal massage
  31. Press on your eyeballs
  32. Pull your hair
  33. Immerse your face in ice water
  34. Stand on your head
  35. Smoke a joint

So, can you guess which one worked for me?

Hic.

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8 thoughts on “Crowd Sourcing a Cure: Sidesplitting Folk Medical Advice from the Internet

  1. OK–how do you drink water while sticking your fingers in your ears?
    And–I have plenty of empirical research on a study group of one on the no-fail cure for hiccups. I have have been using it since I was seven. It is a water and breathing based strategy.
    1) Fill a cup with water.
    2) Take a big, deep breath and hold your nose (only need one hand)
    3) Take at least 7 (more is better) sips of water until you feel like you are going to pass out.
    4) Exhale (I almost forgot to add this common sense tip)
    Problem solved. This has only failed me once or twice on the first try, never after two.

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  2. I’ve always found the holding your breath cure works for me. Plus, if you do it enough times, you will see magical stars and/ have a head rush and are allowed to lie down. Providing another caretaker is available. Otherwise you won’t have hiccups but may feel like throwing up.

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  3. anything to shock your diaphragm should work. For babies they recommend making them laugh or cry. SO find something that makes you laugh so hard you start crying and you’re in business.

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  4. Ahhh, hiccoughs – a topic everyone loves to have an opinion on! (even me). We have a pop culture scientist here in Aus who does all sorts of things (radio etc for the last 20-30 years). Very intelligent guy and just a bit out there. Here is his two cents worth on the topic http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2012/09/04/3582324.htm#.UZVyd6Iwf1E
    never tried it myself because i use meditation (and quite frankly i’ll wait till i need to start getting a prostate exam and kill two birds with one stone . . . .or finger as the case may be).

    When i was a young whipper snapper i watched karate kid and thought “i can do that!” So joined up with the local martial arts branch. Couldn’t fight my way out of a paper bag but they did teach me how to meditate. When i get the hiccoughs i go into that state and they are gone instantly – pretty much a combination of 16 and 26.

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    • I think using a straw would be cheating. I haven’t tried it, but I suspect the goal is to contort yourself so that you’re putting pressure on your diaphragm; or perhaps cause you to concentrate so hard on the task that you forget about the hiccups.

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      • Wow! That’s a workout! *laugh*
        I just grab a lime wedge and suck on it for 30 seconds and the hiccups go away, but limes aren’t always readily accessible. :-/

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