Hiccups involve an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm – the muscle between your chest and abdomen that helps you breathe.
This contraction brings a sudden rush of inhaled air, followed by a quick closure of your vocal cords, creating the “hic” sound we all recognize.
Are Hiccups Dangerous?
In most cases, hiccups are harmless and will go away on their own within a few minutes.
However, in some rare cases, hiccups can last for days, weeks, months, or sometimes even longer. In these extreme cases, hiccups can become more than just an annoyance.
They may interfere with sleep, eating, and drinking, potentially leading to malnutrition, dehydration, and sleep deprivation.
Long-term hiccups can also lead to psychological distress and impaired quality of life.
All of these effects can undoubtedly have a negative impact on your health, but there isn’t any substantial evidence to suggest that hiccups have directly caused any deaths.
But it is possible that long-lasting hiccups may be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition.
Potential Causes of Long-Lasting Hiccups
Persistent (lasting longer than two days) or intractable (longer than a month) hiccups are usually caused by an issue with the nervous system.
Damaged nerves or disruption of nerve signaling to the diaphragm could potentially lead to involuntary muscle contractions and, as a result, hiccups.
This includes conditions such as:
- brain tumors
- traumatic brain injury
- multiple sclerosis
- electrolyte imbalance
- gastroesophageal reflux disease
- peptic ulcers
Some of these underlying conditions can be life-threatening, so if you have persistent hiccups lasting more than two days, see a doctor to rule out any serious causes.
Medications can also cause hiccups, such as:
If you think your hiccups may be a side effect of a medication you’re taking and is interfering with your quality of life, talk to your doctor.
What Can You Do About Them?
For the most part, hiccups will go away on their own and don’t require any medical intervention.
More often than not, hiccups are related to:
- eating too quickly
- carbonated beverages
- spicy foods
When hiccups are associated with these causes, preventing them or getting rid of them is often as simple as minimizing the trigger.
Instead of panicking, try to de-stress and relax your body and mind.
Drink or eat more slowly and take breaks between bites or sips. Avoid foods and drinks that provoke your hiccups.
All sorts of old wives’ tales and home remedies claim to help get rid of hiccups, but ultimately, your hiccups will probably settle down on their own after a few minutes.