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Pediatricians share their best tips for how to help your child's hiccups

Young child holding sugar cube between teeth.
A teaspoon of sugar is a sweet hiccup remedy.
  • If your child is experiencing hiccups, try getting them to hold their breath for ten seconds.
  • But eating a teaspoon of sugar or gently pulling on your child's tongue may work better for young kids.
  • Hiccups may make your child anxious so be sure to soothe them and model calm behavior.

Hiccups are a common annoyance most people will experience at some point in their lives. They are especially common in infants and young children, since they have less mature digestive systems, which may lead to increased gas.

It can be distressing to see your child experience hiccups, but they are rarely a cause for concern, says Dr. Ilan Shapiro, chief health correspondent and medical affairs officer with AltaMed Health Services

There isn't much research available on best methods for treating brief episodes of hiccups, and there is no guaranteed way to get rid of them, but there are some tips doctors recommend for finding relief.

Here are five remedies for relieving hiccups in children and when to seek medical care for your child's hiccups.

1. Have your child hold their breath

Hiccups are an involuntary reflex that happens when your diaphragm — which is the muscle below the rib cage — contracts. This causes your vocal cords to close abruptly, creating the tell-tale hiccup sound.

These contractions happen because the brain involuntarily sends messages to the diaphragm to tighten. Holding your breath helps slow down these signals, which may help reduce the contractions, Shapiro says. 

Toddlers may struggle with holding their breath, but encouraging them to blow saliva bubbles out their mouth instead can have the same effect, Shapiro says. 

For older kids, encourage them to follow these steps: 

1. Exhale and take a deep breath.

2. Hold the breath for 10 seconds.

3. Then without exhaling, take another breath in and pause.

4. Take a third breath in and then slowly exhale out the mouth.

2. Give your child a glass of cold water

Drinking cold water helps relieve hiccups for the same reason holding your breath may help. The act of drinking water also helps the body start regulating the signals between the brain and the diaphragm, which can reduce the contractions, Shapiro says. 

To try this remedy, fill a glass with about eight ounces of cold water and encourage your child to drink it as quickly as they can without feeling nauseous. 

3. Try to stay calm

Anxiety, stress, and excitement have been shown to exasperate hiccups, says Dr. Jonathan Maynard, a pediatrician with Providence Mission Hospital. Staying calm is key to helping the episode pass quickly. 

If your child is getting worked up over their hiccups, the best thing you can do to calm their stress is to stay calm yourself. Children feed off the emotions of the adults close to them, especially when they are anxious, and modeling emotional regulation for yourself can help your child learn how to stay calm too. 

Take deep breaths to calm your own nervous system. Tell your child they are safe, you're with them, and the hiccups will pass. It may help to assure them that you've had hiccups before too.

4. Let your child eat sugar

Letting a teaspoon of sugar dissolve on the tongue may help relieve hiccups by stimulating the vagus nerve, which plays a role in transmitting signals from the brain to the diaphragm. 

With young children, it might be easier to place the sugar under their tongue so that it dissolves more slowly than if they were to swallow it. 

5. Pull gently on your child's tongue 

Pulling on the tongue is thought to help relieve hiccups in a similar way as eating sugar — by stimulating the vagus nerve and easing diaphragm spasms. 

Have your child open their mouth wide and using clean hands gently tug on the tip of their tongue once or twice. 

When to see a doctor

In the vast majority of cases, hiccups resolve on their own and don't require medical intervention, Shapiro says. However, if your child's hiccups persist for more than 48 hours or interfere with eating, sleeping, or breathing, have them examined by a doctor.

In rare cases, chronic hiccups can be a sign of an underlying health condition, including:

An evaluation might include blood tests and radiographic imaging, which allows doctors to visualize the body's internal structures, Shapiro says. 

Insider's takeaway

Hiccups can be annoying and distressing for children, but they are usually short-lived and rarely a cause for concern. 

There are no guaranteed home remedies to get rid of hiccups but there are some methods you can try to help your child find relief. These include having them hold their breath, giving them cold water to drink, letting sugar dissolve under their tongue, or gently pulling the tip of their tongue.

If your child's hiccups persist for more than 48 hours or interfere with their ability to eat, sleep, or breathe, seek immediate medical attention. Sometimes persistent hiccups can be a sign of an underlying health issue that needs treatment. 

Read the original article on Insider

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