Carbonation, irritation of the stomach, and overconsumption can all contribute to hiccups after drinking alcohol. Sipping cold water or practicing breathing techniques may help.

Hiccups are involuntary contractions of the diaphragm followed by a sudden closure of the vocal cords. This combination produces the characteristic “hic” sound.

In most cases, hiccups are harmless and resolve independently, but prolonged episodes can indicate an underlying medical condition and may require medical evaluation.

Read on to learn more about why people get hiccups when drinking and how to manage it.

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A hiccup is an involuntary spasm of the diaphragm, which is the muscular sheet that separates the chest from the abdomen and supports breathing. Once the diaphragm contracts, the vocal cords close, causing a hiccup sound.

The vagus and phrenic nerves play central roles in this reflex. Irritation or stimulation to these nerves, such as from a distended stomach or rapid temperature change, can trigger the hiccup reflex.

Several factors related to alcohol consumption can prompt this reflex:

  • Irritation of the stomach and esophagus: Alcohol, especially if consumed rapidly or in large quantities, can irritate the stomach lining and the esophagus. Since the vagus nerve runs near these areas, any irritation can stimulate it, leading to hiccups.
  • Temperature and carbonation: Carbonated drinks can cause the stomach to expand, putting pressure on the diaphragm. Similarly, the rapid temperature change from consuming a cold drink can trigger the reflex.
  • Overconsumption: Drinking excessively can lead to stomach distension, which irritates the diaphragm and surrounding nerves, increasing the likelihood of hiccups.

In most cases, hiccups when drunk are temporary, harmless, and more of an annoyance than a health concern.

However, in rare cases, hiccups can continue for days, months, or longer. Doctors call this singultus.

Chronic hiccups are a serious medical condition that can lead to insomnia, exhaustion, and weight loss if a person cannot eat. If a person has hiccups for more than 48 hours, they should contact a doctor.

Most hiccups are acute, meaning they are short-lived and usually last a few minutes to a few hours. Doctors classify hiccups as persistent or protracted if they continue for more than 48 hours.

Several factors can influence how long hiccups last:

  • Cause: Hiccups due to temporary triggers such as cold drinks or excitement are usually short-lived, while those from medical conditions may persist.
  • Individual differences: Each person’s body is unique. Some individuals may be more prone to longer hiccup episodes due to genetic factors, personal health history, or anatomical structure.
  • Interventions: Depending on the cause, certain approaches may shorten the duration of hiccups.

Hiccups are usually temporary and resolve independently, but a person can use certain techniques to alleviate them. Here are some methods to try:

  • Holding breath: When someone holds their breath, it increases the carbon dioxide in their bloodstream, which may interrupt the hiccup reflex. A person can also try breathing into a paper bag.
  • Valsalva maneuver: This breathing technique involves forcefully attempting to exhale against a closed airway. It involves closing the mouth, pinching the nose shut, and breathing out as if blowing up a balloon.
  • Cold water: Sipping cold water slowly or glugging a glass quickly can help stimulate the vagus nerve. The sudden temperature change shocks the nerve, potentially disrupting and resetting its current activity pattern.

A person may not be able to prevent hiccups while drinking. However, some strategies may help, including:

  • avoiding carbonated alcoholic drinks
  • drinking slowly
  • eating before drinking to reduce the speed of alcohol absorption
  • avoiding dancing while drinking

Hiccups typically resolve on their own with no lasting effects. However, a person should contact a doctor if the hiccups persist for more than 48 hours or if they return frequently.

If someone experiences other symptoms alongside hiccups, such as chest pain or breathing difficulties, they should seek medical attention.

Alcohol can lead to hiccups through its effects on the diaphragm and related nerves.

Although there is no guaranteed way to avoid hiccups, choosing non-carbonated drinks, drinking slowly, and limiting alcohol intake may help.

While most alcohol-induced hiccups are short-term and harmless, a person should seek medical attention if they persist for longer than 2 days.