Why Do You Get Hiccups?

By james
Reviewed: Dr. Gromatzky
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Medical Expert Medical Expert

Pretty much everybody gets the hiccups from time to time. For kids they can be a lot of fun but they are not always something to laugh at. They can be quite uncomfortable for some people, however, and they can sometimes last for a long time. They are involuntary, meaning that we have no control over them and have little choice but to wait until they pass.

If they do last for longer than 48 hours, however, then it is an indicator that there might be an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. There are numerous potential causes of hiccups, and here’s a look at some of the most common.

1. What Are Hiccups?

In order to answer why we get hiccups it will help first if we explain what they are. Our diaphragm is a muscle that is found just below the lungs. When we need to take in more air, the diaphragm pulls down, drawing the air in. In order to breathe out, the diaphragm will relax allowing the air to exit the lungs.

This process will be repeated continuously, ensuring that we have a constant supply of fresh air being delivered to the lungs. Hiccups are caused when the diaphragm pulls down suddenly, drawing in air quickly. This causes the windpipe to snap shut, and this results in the hiccup sound we all know so well.


2. Big Meals

A big, delicious meal can be so satisfying and so enjoyable that it is difficult to say no to more. This can lead to us becoming too full and this can lead to a number of short-term problems. One of the problems that this can cause is hiccups.

Too much food in the stomach will temporarily cause the stomach to expand, and it can expand to the point where it is pushed up against the diaphragm and irritates it. This can then cause the diaphragm to contract and this can lead to hiccups. Avoiding eating too much can help to prevent hiccups from occurring.

3. Acid Reflux

After we swallow our food, it passes down the esophagus into the stomach. There, it will be slowly broken down by juices that are released into the stomach. These juices are acidic in nature, but the lining of the stomach helps prevent it from the corrosive effect of the acid.

The acidic juices in the stomach are kept in the stomach by a muscle known as the esophageal sphincter. In some people, this muscle can weaken and this can cause the stomachs juices to escape out of the stomach. This results in acid reflux that causes a burning sensation in the esophagus, and it can also cause hiccups.


4. Soda

Soda is great for cooling down on a hot day and, with so many flavors available, there is something for everybody. Soda is also carbonated, which means that it will release carbon dioxide gas in bubbles after it has been opened. The soda will continue to release gas even after it has been consumed, and this can lead to bloating.

If you gulp soda down to quickly then you can end up with too much gas in the stomach. This can cause us to burp to release the gas, and it can also cause us to get the hiccups. It is good idea to try and limit your consumption of soda anyway because it is very high in sugar, making it one of the leading contributors to obesity.

5. Alcohol

Drinking alcohol leads to a number of symptoms in the short term. Alcohol is actually a sedative, which means that it slows us down, even though it might feel as though it energizes us. While it is quite safe to use in moderation, alcohol can become quite dangerous in people who are not as careful with it.

Alcohol can be a lot of fun but it can lead to symptoms like the hiccups, which are often not so fun. This happens because it can cause the diaphragm to contract suddenly. It can also cause the esophageal sphincter to relax, leading to acid reflux, which itself is a possible cause of hiccups.


6. Hyperventilation

Hyperventilation is a condition where the patient begins to breathe much more quickly than usual. Common causes of the condition include panic, anxiety, using stimulants, bleeding, pain, lung conditions, heart conditions, and being at a high altitude.

It does have the potential to be very serious and emergency medical assistance should be considered. You can try to ease hyperventilation yourself at home by breathing into a paper bag, and/or trying to hold your breath. Hyperventilation causes a number of symptoms including, but not limited to, sweating, bloating, vision changes, headaches, and fainting. It can lead to sudden imbalances in the body’s metabolism, and this can lead to hiccups.

7. Excitement

Every now and then, something comes around that gets us really excited. It might be that the day you get to go to a big gig is approaching, or maybe you have just heard some good news. There are countless possible reasons and it will send certain hormones circulating around the body.

It is not known exactly why we hiccup when we are excited, but it could be that excitement is somehow causing irritation to the diaphragm. Being excited can also cause us to swallow more air than we usually would and this might also be a trigger for the hiccups.


8. Sudden Temperature Change

We are able to adjust to different temperatures quite well, within reason. If we are hot, for example, then we will begin to perspire, which helps to keep the body relatively cool. If we go from one temperature to another quickly, however, then it can be a bit of a shock to the system.

Some people might get the hiccups when they experience a sudden change in temperature, such as when jumping into a cold pool. Some people might also develop the hiccups when eating cold food such as ice cream shortly after they have eaten hot food.

9. A Shock

Like other animals, we have evolved to react quickly to things that happen around us. It is a necessary survival instinct that might literally have saved our lives when in the wild. A rush of adrenaline and other hormones are sent surging around the body to help make sure that we are alert to the problem.

Even a loud noise such as a door slamming can be enough to give us a shock. For some people, having a bit of a shock can be enough to trigger a fit of the hiccups. It can also be brought on at times when somebody is under stress.

10. Medication

Medication is designed to make changes to the body, so it should come as no surprise that using medication can result in various side effects. A lot of these side effects are quite harmless but different medication can affect different people in different ways.

One potential side effect of medication is that the patient might develop hiccups. While hiccups can be irritating, it is not necessarily dangerous so it does not mean you necessarily have to stop the medication. If the symptom is getting difficult to bear then you should speak with your doctor and they might be able to give you an alternative.


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