How to Get Rid of Your Kid's Hiccups

Try getting rid of the pesky—hic!—things with one of these doctor-approved tricks for helping toddlers and school-age kids stop hiccupping.

curly haired child holding his breath
Photo: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty

Did you know that babies can get hiccups while in the womb? Hiccuping may be one of the cutest (and most comical) things babies can do, but researchers don't fully understand why they happen. A study from University College London found that these diaphragm spasms may help babies learn how to regulate their breathing.

But past the age of diapers and toddling, hiccupping is an annoying side effect that typically occurs after your child eats too fast or inhales lots of air. Other causes that can trigger hiccups include:

  • Eating or drinking too fast
  • Drinking carbonated beverages
  • Stress and fear
  • Becoming quickly over-excited

If you or your child experience hiccups consistently for more than 48 hours, call your doctor, as that could indicate an underlying medical condition.

If you're looking for ways to help your kid get rid of them, give one of these tricks a try but be warned; you may need to use a little trial and error. "We don't know how well the remedies work because they haven't been tested scientifically, but they are harmless and may help," says Howard Bennett, M.D., a pediatrician in Washington, D.C., and author of the children's book The Fantastic Body.

Remedies to Try

Your diaphragm, located in your chest, is a muscle that separates your chest cavity from your abdomen. Sometimes, for reasons that are still mysterious to researchers, that muscle will begin to spasm, and when it does, it will squeeze on your vocal cords, giving you that classic hiccup sound.

Some parents know exactly what causes their kids to get hiccups. Commonly, it happens after eating too fast or drinking carbonated fizzy drinks. And although hiccups are harmless, they can feel annoying to anyone, including little kids.

Here are a few tricks to try to get rid of them quickly.

Hold your breath

Have your child take a deep breath as if they're about to blow out birthday candles and hold it for 15 to 30 seconds. Wait a minute and repeat the action if it doesn't work the first time. Your child could get dizzy while doing this, so keep them safe by first sitting on the couch or floor.

Swallow sugar

Place a teaspoon of it on your child's tongue and have her gulp it down. (Yes, we give you full permission to give your kid sugar. It's for a good cause!) It may sound pretty wild, but in 1971, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study that showed that 19 out of 20 people who tried this remedy had sweet success.

Breathe into a paper bag

Seat your child somewhere safe like the couch, and have them steady their breath by inhaling and exhaling into the bag 10 to 15 times. Remember that study we mentioned? It turns out that the hiccup reflex may help regulate breathing and you use that to your advantage by tricking your brain into telling your hiccups to stop. When your child breaths into a paper bag, it creates a concentration of CO2, triggering your brain to want fresh air to breathe.

Drink water

Fill a 6-ounce glass, and get your kid to sip the water as quickly as possible. Similarly to the sugar remedy, water touching the back of your throat may help tell your brain to snap out of the hiccups.

Waiting them out

The only remedy that works 100% of the time is simply waiting them out. Yes, that can feel like misery for kids, especially if they hate getting the hiccups. But if you've already tried everything else, then waiting for hiccups to resolve on their own might be the only option left.

What Not To Try

When you get the hiccups, it is natural to want to do something—anything!—to make them go away. But while there may be lots of zany remedies that have a probability of working, there are some that are just not safe.

Scaring someone

You may love a good jump scare in a movie, but scaring your child may have big consequences, including learning to be afraid of you. Additionally, if your child has something in their mouth (like that spoonful of sugar remedy) scaring them could cause them to gasp and choke.

Chewing gum

Since swallowing excess air can cause hiccups, you want to avoid doing anything that can prolong them. Chewing gum, which makes you swallow more, might seem like a great idea, but the amount of air that gets swallowed can re-trigger a hiccup episode.

Peanut butter

Swallowing peanut butter sounds marvelous since it will coat your throat and, in theory, soothe the muscle spasm as the peanut butter goes down. But if your child swallows too much peanut butter, they can choke. Avoid asking your child to swallow anything thick and sticky like peanut butter.

Known hiccup triggers

Similarly to chewing gum, certain things commonly trigger hiccups. A few common hiccup culprits include:

  • Spicy foods
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Switching from very hot to cold (and vice versa) can trigger muscle spasms.
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