Dr. Rachel: What causes hiccups and how do I get rid of them?

Dr. Rachel
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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – Hold your breath, drink water, get a friend to scare you? Dr. Rachel shares what hiccups are and the remedies that actually work.

Everyone gets hiccups, even unborn babies inside their moms! Dr. Rachel tells us that hiccups occur when our diaphragms, the big muscle that controls our breathing, contracts. This contraction causes an intake of a breath which is suddenly stopped by the closure of the vocal cords – and that’s the unique hiccups sound!

A hiccup is basically an inward breath that gets rejected by the vocal cords. But why would the vocal chords reject air? Dr. Rachel says that hiccups usually occur when the stomach is full. Since the stomach is located under the diaphragm, if the full stomach rubs against the diaphragm it can get irritated, which will cause it to contract.

What causes hiccups?

  • Eating too much food rapidly
  • Swallowing too much air
  • Sudden change in stomach temperature, like if you drink something hot then something cold
  • Emotional stress or excitement

And how do we get rid of them? Dr. Rachel shares several home remedies to get rid of hiccups.

  • Eat a teaspoon of sugar
  • Breathe into a paper bag
  • Hold your breath while counting to ten
  • Having someone scare or surprise you

Otherwise, hiccups usually go away within a few minutes. But if your hiccups last longer than 4 hours or occur frequently, go to your doctor right away. Dr. Rachel says that this may be a sign of a more serious health problem.

If you have any medical questions, email me at drrachel@wgno.com.

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