why you keep getting them in the
nothing more frustrating than being stuck with a persistent case of the
hiccups. So what’s really going on?
Hiccups happen when your diaphragm—the sheet of muscle
surrounding your lungs contracts involuntarily.
At the same time, your voice box contracts, too, causing that jump in your
chest and producing that annoying hiccup sound.
“Hiccup bouts are usually caused by your stomach getting too
inflated too quickly from overeating or even carbonated
beverages,” says Niket Sonpal, M.D., assistant clinical
professor of gastroenterology at Touro College of Medicine. “Other causes, such
as excessive alcohol ingestion or emotional stress, can also precipitate
For the most part, hiccups are totally normal and not
cause for concern. However, “persistent hiccups lasting more than 48 hours may
necessitate a thorough medical evaluation,” says Sonpal. Similarly, if you find
yourself wrestling with regular bouts of hiccups for a month or more, it might
be time to see the doc. Although rare, hiccups like this could be caused by a
serious cardiovascular, neurologic, or gastrointestinal disorder—not something
you want to play around with.
As for scaring the hiccups away, there’s no medical
evidence to support that actually works—so you can tell that annoying friend always
trying to give you a fright to buzz off. Instead, Sonpal suggests sipping cold water,
gargling with water, or holding your breath for a minute to help you shake
them. “For a normal once in a while case, time will simply help them
dissipate,” he says.