Brain freeze refers to when something extremely cold touches the upper palate (roof of the mouth). It typically happens when the weather is very hot, and the individual consumes something cold too fast.
Brain freeze is also known as ice cream headache, cold stimulus headache, and sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. It is a short-term headache typically linked to the rapid consumption of ice cream, ice pops, or very cold drinks.
What is a brain freeze?
By itself, brain freeze is harmless, and the phenomenon isn’t associated with any worrisome neurological conditions. However, it is linked to migraines. “People who suffer from migraines tend to be more prone to brain freeze,” says Dr. Natbony, because the same nerves in the palate are responsible for triggering both types of head pain.
The name is pretty descriptive of the feeling. A brain freeze is the sharp head pain that occurs when you eat or drink something cold, otherwise known as cold neuralgia or sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, says Roger Seheult, M.D., medical advisor for Intrivo. The pain is typically felt most intensely in the forehead, temples, and behind the eyes or nose, he adds.
What can I do to make a brain freeze go away?
If you get an ice cream headache, try to get the temperature of your mouth and throat back to normal:
- Stop eating or drinking the cold item, or get out of the cold.
- Drink a warm or room-temperature liquid (not cold and not hot).
- Press your tongue or thumb against the roof of your mouth to transfer warmth.
How to stop brain freeze?
Unlike other types of headaches, which last longer and usually require medication or other remedies, treating a brain freeze is as easy as warming your mouth back up. In addition, while painful, a brain freeze is actually harmless and isn’t anything to alert your doctor about.
As far as how to deal with brain freeze, your best bet is to try to prevent it altogether by eating cold foods slowly, taking small sips or bites. It’s hard to resist slurping a slushie or biting into a popsicle as soon as it’s in your hands, though.
If you feel a brain freeze coming on, you might try the following:
- Get the cold food or drink out of your mouth
- Take a sip of warm water
- Press and hold your tongue against the roof of your mouth
Brain Freeze and Migraine
While ice cream headaches can hit anyone who enjoys an icy-cold treat, you might be more likely to have them — or they might be worse — if you tend to get migraines. But brain freeze is generally thought to be harmless, so that triple-scoop cone won’t trigger a migraine or any other type of serious headache.
How can we prevent brain freeze and eat ice cream in peace?
“For a typical brain freeze, it will go away in less than 30 seconds or so, professional care is not needed. You can either wait a few seconds for it to clear up on its own or push your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Your tongue will help re-regulate your mouth to be warmer,” advises Dr. Krel.
“It’s the brain’s job to control the temperature of your body, so brain freeze is essentially your brain’s way of signaling to slow down,” adds Dr. Krel. “If you experience brain freeze often, try eating a little slower or have warm water on standby to drink.”