Hiccups might not be the worst thing that drinking too much alcohol can cause, but they can be bothersome and inconvenient, especially if you’re out on the town.
Here’s what you need to know about alcohol-induced hiccups, including whether or not you should worry about those happy hour hiccups and how to stop them.
In general, hiccups are inconvenient at best, but dangerous or deadly? Nope.
iven that it’s totally possible to choke on your own vomit after drinking too much, we get why you might think that booze-induced hiccups could be dangerous.
When you have the hiccups, it’s not unusual to have a hint of flavor come up (hey there, hangover tacos). You may have even felt the occasional burn of stomach acid come up during a fit of hiccups. While totally gross, this isn’t anything to be concerned about.
That said, hiccups that last longer than 48 hours or having frequent episodes can sometimes be a sign of an underlying health issue, like gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), nerve damage, or a tumor. If severe and long lasting, hiccups could affect your ability to eat and sleep, and lead to exhaustion, malnutrition, and dehydration. This is very rare, though.
To really understand why drinking can make hiccups happen, you need to know what hiccups actually are.
Hiccups are a strong contraction of the diaphragm — a muscle that’s just under your lungs and separates your abdomen from your chest. As for what causes those contractions, experts still aren’t totally sure.
Regardless of the underlying cause, alcohol is a known hiccup trigger for a few reasons.
First, anything that causes your stomach to become distended can trigger hiccups. This includes drinking a lot of anything, but especially beer and carbonated bevvies, like soda.
The stomach sits just underneath your diaphragm on the left side. It’s possible that when your stomach is distended, it presses on or irritates your diaphragm, triggering hiccups.
If you’re talking and noshing while drinking with friends, you may be swallowing air or eating and drinking too fast, which can also cause your stomach to distend.
Alcohol also irritates the digestive system, including your esophagus, which can also trigger hiccups and increase acid production, which can lead to acid reflux. Acid reflux can also cause — you guessed it — hiccups.
Most of the time, hiccups will stop on their own within a few minutes, but if you want to help them along, there are some things you can try.
Give one of these a go to get rid of hiccups:
- Stimulate the back of your throat by swallowing a spoonful of sugar.
- Sip on or gargle with ice water.
- Hold your breath for a few seconds to interrupt your breathing cycle.
- Try the Valsalva maneuver and try to exhale with your mouth closed while pinching your nose.
- Rub the back of your neck.
- Breathe into a paper bag.
- Pull your knees up to your chest and lean forward.
- Bend forward to put pressure on your diaphragm.
- Bite on a piece of lemon.
There’s no way to totally avoid drinking-related hiccups aside from avoiding alcohol, but there are a few things you can do to reduce your chances of having them.
Keep the following in mind next time you’re drinking and looking to steer clear of any hiccups:
- Avoid drinking beer.
- Skip carbonated drinks, including those mixed with soda.
- Sip your drinks slowly and avoid chugging.
- Drink in moderation.
Unless you have persistent hiccups that last longer than a couple of days, hiccups after drinking aren’t usually a big deal. Alcohol is a common trigger for hiccups, and some people are more prone to getting hiccups. Minding the amount and type of alcohol when imbibing can help keep those pesky hiccups away.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.