Avoid the ice cream headache!

a.k.a. brain freeze, freezer head, cold rush

Have you ever wondered why you get an intense headache when you slurp down a milkshake? It’s not your body’s way of punishing you for indulging in a high-calorie frozen treat. Commonly called brain freeze, this pain can happen to anyone who gets a little overzealous when devouring a cold treat on a hot day.

“A brain freeze is a short-term headache caused when ingesting cold substances,” said Brian Plato, D.O., neurologist and headache specialist with Norton Neuroscience Institute’s Headache & Concussion Center. “The sensation is caused when there is an overload to the trigeminal nerves which then send a signal back to the brain triggering a headache. Researchers believe this is a sort of defense mechanism in which the body wants to keep the brain warm so that it can function properly.”

The action of a brain freeze may sound precarious; however, research has shown it is not dangerous for children or adults. Here are some tips to prevent brain freeze:

  • Eat or drink your cold treat slowly, taking in small amounts.
  • Take short breaks in between bites or sips to give your palate a moment to warm up.
  • Apply toppings such as fruit, nuts or whipped cream to your frozen treat to increase the temperature.

If it’s hot outside and you can’t help but drink your slushy in a matter of seconds, here are some tips for brain freeze relief:

  • Tilt your head back for 10 seconds to slow the blood flow to the brain.
  • Drink warm water to instantly warm the upper palate of the mouth.
  • Press your thumb or tongue against the roof of your mouth.

Dr. Plato says brain freeze usually lasts about a minute and almost never lasts more than 5 minutes. Individuals who have migraine are most susceptible to this type of headache. You or your child may feel pain, but remember it’s not dangerous and doesn’t mean that anything is wrong in your body.


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