Yes, they’re annoying--and, yes, there are ways to deal.
Hiccups that just won't quit are almost as annoying as being stuck in traffic for hours...with a crying baby...and no air conditioning. We may be exaggerating here, but this mysterious bodily function is just as strange as it is irritating. So what exactly is going on when you hiccup--and how can you shut it down, ASAP? Let us explain:
What ARE Hiccups?
First things first: “Hiccups occur when there is a sudden, involuntary contraction of the diaphragm, a muscle that lies just below the lungs and separates the chest cavity from the abdomen,” said Dr. Andrea Paul, M.D., chief medical officer at BoardVitals.com. “As the diaphragm contracts very quickly it causes air to be sucked in very quickly, which snaps the vocal cord shut and makes the ‘hiccup’ sound.”
What Causes Hiccups?
Although there are only theories about what actually causes hiccups, they’re often seen in conjunction with symptoms like bloating and inhaling too quickly. Paul said potential culprits including eating or drinking too much, inhaling an irritant like smoke, and drinking alcohol. But some have said that even stress or anxiety can provoke them.
How Can You Get Rid of Them?
The cure for hiccups is pretty simple: increase the level of CO2 in your bloodstream, Paul said.
“You can hold your breath for 10 to 20 seconds, drink a glass of water without taking a breath, breathe into a paper bag for 20 to 30 seconds, jog in place or do jumping jacks for 30 seconds,” she said. "Usually, one of those will do the trick."
Here's how it works: Taking a deep breath in and holding it will keep you from ridding your body of the carbon dioxide waste; each time you breathe into a paper bag, your body is taking back in the CO2 you just exhaled; and a brief bout of exercise works because, as you take in more oxygen and it combines with other nutrients in your body for energy, your body produces more CO2 as a result.
If nothing is working, and your hiccups don’t resolve on their own within 48 hours, Paul said it’s time to call your doc so she can check to see if there’s an underlying issue.