They may not be life threatening, but hiccups, blisters and and other body bothers can be painful, embarrassing, and just plain annoying.
Most of us dismiss them as occasional nuisances and wait for them to get better on their own. In fact, there are simple steps you can take to make them go away faster—or to prevent them in the first place.
Here's a roundup of the most common body annoyances, with info on what causes them, how you should handle them, and when they may warrant a call to your doctor.
1. Waterlogged ears
What causes them: Water finds its way into the ear canal, most often while you're swimming, and muffles your hearing.
What to do: Often it's enough to tilt your head and find an angle that will let the water drain out, says Dr. Rachel C. Freeman, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, in Indianapolis. Holding a hair dryer a few inches from your ear can also dry up the fluid, Freeman says—but be sure to use the gentlest setting. If the dryer is too hot or too loud, you could burn yourself or harm your hearing.
If your ear hurts, is red, or is draining fluid, you may have an infection known as swimmer's ear, and should seek medical attention.
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What causes them: Hiccups occur when your diaphragm starts contracting involuntarily. Your vocal cords snap shut after every spasm, making that familiar "hic" sound.
What to do: Well-worn remedies, like drinking a glass of water upside down or holding your breath, can help. "Many of these cures actually seem to work by disrupting your breathing cycle in a way that allows the diaphragm to relax and stop its hiccup-causing spasms," says Freeman, coauthor of Don't Cross Your Eyes—They'll Get Stuck that Way!.
If your favorite trick doesn't help, your hiccups should subside on their own in a few minutes. Seek medical attention if they last for more than three hours or make it hard to breathe or swallow.
3. Dry mouth
What causes it: A slowdown in saliva production can have many causes. It may simply be that you're not drinking enough water. But dry mouth can also be a side effect of many different medications, from antidepressants to antihistamines.
What to do: Drink more water. Chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugarless hard candy can also help. Reduce your caffeine intake, and if you smoke, quit. You can also try one of the many over-the-counter dry mouth treatments, which include moisturizing rinses, sprays, and gels.
"If none of these remedies work, check in with your doctor," says Roshini Raj, MD, Health magazine's medical editor and coauthor of What the Yuck?!. "There's a chance you could have another problem like a respiratory infection, chronic sinusitis, or diabetes."
What causes them: Friction—from a tight shoe rubbing against your foot, for example—can cause fluid to collect between layers of skin, causing a bubble-like blister. Burns and other skin injuries can also cause blisters.
What to do: "The best thing you can do for your blister is leave it alone," Freeman says. "Blisters can get infected easily, and this is why we don't want you to pop them unless they are really big." If you must pop a blister, make sure your hands are clean, use a sterile needle to let the fluid out, and don't remove the flap of skin covering the blister.
You should seek medical help if the area around a blister gets red or tender, or starts draining fluid that is not clear—all of which can indicate infection.
5. Stiff neck
What causes it: Holding your head in an awkward position for an extended period of time—while using a smartphone or laptop, say—can strain your neck muscles, leading to pain and stiffness.
What to do: Be aware of your posture. If you work in an office, make sure your desk, chair, computer keyboard, and monitor are positioned to let you work comfortably.
The same rules apply at home. "The best way to use a laptop is on a desk, not your lap, with the screen at eye level and the keyboard within easy reach," Raj says. And that goes for iPads and other devices, she adds.
If your stiff neck doesn't respond within a week to home remedies like over-the-counter pain relievers, heating pads, icing, or gentle massage, check with your doctor.
6. Chapped lips
What causes it: Lips generally become chapped due to dry air, cold weather, or too much sun. The skin on your lips is much thinner than the skin of your face and contains no oil glands, so it gets dehydrated faster. This dryness makes your lips fragile, which can cause painful splits and cracks.
What to do: Licking your lips can make it worse. Frequent applications of lip balm will shield the delicate skin of your lips and help them heal. Dermatologists recommend using a balm with built-in sun protection, and staying away from ingredients like eucalyptus or camphor, which can dry out your lips.
If lip balm doesn't do the trick you should consult a doctor. "Cracks at the corners of your mouth may be a sign of a vitamin deficiency," Raj says. "Have a doctor check your levels—and consider taking a multivitamin."
7. Ingrown hairs
What causes them: When hairs grow back into the skin after shaving or tweezing, they can produce painful and unsightly bumps. They're most likely to be a problem in people with tightly curling hair.
What to do: You can stop tweezing, shaving, or waxing. If that isn't an option, your doctor can prescribe creams, such as Renova, that help slough dead cells from the surface of your skin.
Also, as you're getting ready to shave, gently rubbing your skin with a warm washcloth in a circular motion may help prevent ingrown hairs. If you get one anyway, you can try carefully passing a clean needle under the hair to pull it out of the skin—but don't puncture or pick at the skin.