Miracle hiccough cure gets the attention it deserves

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39051.721632.3A (Published 07 December 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1222
  1. Rhys H Thomas (Rhys-Thomas{at}doctors.org.uk)1,
  2. Naomi J P Thomas, paediatric senior house officer2
  1. 1Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, Gloucester GL1 3NN
  2. 2Worcestershire Royal Hospital, Worcester WR5 1DD

    Reluctantly, I must thank Roberts for bringing to greater attention Lam's miraculous hiccough cure (plugging both ears tightly, pushing both right and left tragus, and drinking the entire glass of water through the straw without pause, without releasing the pressure over the ears).1 It certainly works. Crushingly, I was under the misapprehension that the cure was mine alone. I thought that the first professorship of hiccough medicine may well be mine also.

    Firstly, hiccoughs or hiccups? Neither: the rarely used but proper term is singultus. The Latin word singult means catching one's breath while sobbing.

    I was a late convert to the miracle method: I was formerly a “drinking from the wrong side of the glass” man. In contrast to the description given, I never use a straw. Slow drinking of even20 to 30 millilitres of fluid is often sufficient. Keeping the pressure until the last swallow is complete seems beneficial. If no liquid is available, the Valsalva manoeuvre would suffice. Most cures focus on interruption of vagal or phrenic nerve irritation (which is part of the reflex arc and commonly a cause). The rise in intrathoracic pressure is enough to break that arc.

    After a few successes (and from personal experience, the method is nearly infallible when applied correctly) you get an intuition about whether the cure has worked. This allows you to step back (as a true magician would) while the recipient waits indefinitely for the next spasm. This is a particularly satisfying way to bond with a patient, or make friends in the pub.

    Before dashing for an antipsychotic, attempt a miracle cure. If the idea of putting your fingers in the ears of a hiccoughing friend or patient is distasteful to you, it is more socially acceptable than some cures. Digital rectal massage2 and intercourse to orgasm3 (although never suggested synchronously) have both been described.


    • Competing interests: RHT was hoping to make his fortune from the hiccough cure. NJPT frequently benefits from the miracle cure.