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What Happens When You Get A Brain Freeze

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Vasodilation Is Probably Part Of A Self

What Really Happens During A Brain Freeze

Dr. Serrador said:

The brain is one of the relatively important organs in the body, and it needs to be working all the time. Its fairly sensitive to temperature, so vasodilation might be moving warm blood inside tissue to make sure the brain stays warm.

If dilated arteries cause a sudden rush of blood to the brain, which raises pressure and causes pain, a drug that constricts the blood vessel should reduce pressure and eliminate the pain. Also, constricting the blood vessels that supply the brain could help prevent pressure building up dangerously high.

What Causes Ice Cream Headache

Q. What exactly happens when I eat something cold and get an ice cream headache? Is it harmful in any way?

A. Ice cream headache, also known as brain freeze or cold-stimulus headache, is a headache some people get when they consume a cold food or beverage quickly. The pain is usually in the forehead or both temples, and it usually lasts less than five minutes.

The cause is debated, but most experts believe it starts when a cold substance touches the roof of the mouth or the back of the throat and causes small blood vessels in those areas to constrict and then rapidly dilate. Pain receptors near the blood vessels sense the discomfort and send the message along tiny nerve fibers to a larger nerve , which forwards it to the brain. The trigeminal nerve also carries pain signals from the face. The brain reads the cold-stimulus sensations as coming from the head rather than the mouth a phenomenon called referred pain.

Cold-stimulus pain is common, occurring in 30% to 40% of people who dont usually have headaches. The symptoms are harmless and not a sign of any underlying disease, although many experts believe theyre more common in people who get migraines. Because ice cream headaches are so short-lived, theyre hard to study, and theres no consensus on how to stop them. Most people have their own methods the most common is to curl the tongue and press the underside against the roof of the mouth. The best way to prevent the headache is to eat very cold foods slowly.

Neuroscientists Explain How The Sensation Of Brain Freeze Works

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
Brain freeze is practically a rite of summer. It happens when you eat ice cream or gulp something ice cold too quickly. The scientific term is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, but that’s a mouthful. Brain freeze is your body’s way of putting on the brakes, telling you to slow down and take it easy.

Brain freeze is practically a rite of summer. It happens when you eat ice cream or gulp something ice cold too quickly. The scientific term is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, but that’s a mouthful. Brain freeze is your body’s way of putting on the brakes, telling you to slow down and take it easy. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center neuroscientist Dwayne Godwin, Ph.D., explains how it works.

“Brain freeze is really a type of headache that is rapid in onset, but rapidly resolved as well,” he said. “Our mouths are highly vascularized, including the tongue — that’s why we take our temperatures there. But drinking a cold beverage fast doesn’t give the mouth time to absorb the cold very well.”

Here’s how it happens: When you slurp a really cold drink or eat ice cream too fast you are rapidly changing the temperature in the back of the throat at the juncture of the internal carotoid artery, which feeds blood to the brain, and the anterior cerebral artery, which is where brain tissue starts.

“One thing the brain doesn’t like is for things to change, and brain freeze is a mechanism to prevent you from doing that,” Godwin said.

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How Do You Avoid Brain Freeze

Dr. Jorge Serrador of Harvard Medical School talked to NBC News about how to avoid brain freeze. And theres a pretty simple method for getting rid of the painful feeling.

Putting your tongue on the roof of your mouth should do the trick, as it will warm your palate back up. If you can curl your tongue, thats even better, he told the outlet. So if you can, dont be afraid to stick the bottom of your tongue to the roof of your mouth.

Another simple trick is to eat or drink cold foods more slowly so that you dont overwhelm your brain with a sudden temperature change.

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Next time you enjoy an ice-cold drink or a scoop of ice cream, give these tricks a try. You might be able to stop brain freeze in its tracks, so you can go back to enjoying that tasty treat in peace.

How To Stop A Brain Freeze In Its Tracks



I scream, you scream and sometimes we all really scream while eating ice cream because brain freeze.

That sudden, short headache that hits right when were eating or drinking something super-cold which is actually called sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia in scientist speak is our bodys way of telling us to slow down, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center neuroscientist Dwayne Godwin, Ph.D., explained in a 2013 news release.

Our mouths are highly vascularized, including the tongue thats why we take our temperatures there, Godwin said. But drinking a cold beverage fast doesnt give the mouth time to absorb the cold very well.

The rapid change in temperature at the back of the throat where two arteries, one that sends blood to the brain and another that marks the beginning of brain tissue, meet prompts the arteries to dilate and contract. The sensation is interpreted as pain in the brain, which signals you to ease up on the speed-eating.

To halt a brain freeze in its tracks, put down the ice cream cone or cold drink tout de suite, press your tongue against the roof of your mouth, or sip a warmish drink to restore your mouth to a normal temperature. You can also cover your nose and mouth with your hands and breathe into them to warm the air thats getting to your palate.

Then, when youve got that brain freeze licked, go back to eating your ice cream slowly!

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Ways To Stop Brain Freeze

The next time you get a cold headache, try one of these methods to stop it in its tracks.

How to Stop Brain Freeze

  • Spit out the offending food. This is not very attractive, but neither is your scrunched-up brain freeze face!
  • Press your tongue against the roof of your mouth. The heat and pressure are sometimes enough to stop the pain.
  • Open your mouth and press your thumb on the roof of your mouth to warm it. Drink something warm to warm up your palate even room-temperature water can help.
  • Open your mouth and cover it with your hand. Then breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose. This will help warm the inside of your mouth.
  • Some people get relief simply by tilting their head back for 10 to 20 seconds.
  • Perform the Valsalva maneuver. This is the same maneuver to pop your ears open after youve been flying. Close your mouth, pinch your nose shut, and blow air into your nose.

How To Stop A Brain Freeze From Slushy Drinks

Bars & Restaurants, Downtown Las Vegas

The slushy drinks in downtown Las Vegas are renowned for their epic. As with many great things, however, theres also potential peril involved. In the case of slushy drinks, its brain freeze.

The medical name for a brain freeze, often called an ice cream headache, is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. Try saying that five times fast.

Brain freezes happen when something very cold comes into contact with the roof of your mouth. Your blood vessels shrink, then relax again, and that relaxation results in a rush of blood to the brain, causing the sensation of your gray matter being squeezed in a vice. In some cases, a severe brain freeze can bring you to your knees!

Never fear, though. There are some easy ways to help with that brain freeze.

The best case scenario, of course, is one where youd be able to avoid a brain freeze altogether by keeping your slushy drink away from the roof of your mouth. With a little practice, you can master the technique of letting the liquid flow around your tongue, which warms the drink before it touches the roof of your mouth.

When a brain freeze does hit, though, here are three go-to techniques that are recommended by bartenders at some of the outdoor bars at Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas.

1. Curl Your Tongue

2. Use Your Thumb

3. Blow

Now, when your next slushy drink brain freeze hits, youll know what to do.

If youve found something that works better, wed love to hear about it!

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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.

Its the brains job to control the temperature of your body, so brain freeze is essentially your brains 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.

Why Are Brain Freezes So Painful

Why do You Get a Brain Freeze?

The unexpected pain of a cold-stimulus headache prompts most people to freeze up and hold their head in agony. It certainly seems excessive to get a brain freeze when you eat something as delicious as ice cream too fast. Although the fleeting nature of the brain freeze makes it challenging to study, medical experts have been able to link the SPG to other types of headaches.

Scientists still do not know precisely what causes the headache, however. Some studies suggest it is due to an artery in the front of the brain dilating, thus causing the brain to pinpoint the pain there. Others believe it is due to the irritation of the trigeminal nerve, which is the nerve that causes idiopathic stabbing headaches. Whatever the case, there seems to be a relationship between what induces many headaches and what causes brain freezes. The link between migraines and brain freezes are likely why they are so painful.

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How To Lessen Brain Freeze

No one likes the feeling of a brain freeze headache, but some people are more prone to them. For example, if you have migraines, youre more likely to experience brain freeze. This is because they both occur in the same spot on the head.

If you end up with brain freeze, warming the palette will cause the headache to go away faster. Some ways you can do this are:

  • Drink warm water. This will remove the cold feeling from your mouth and replace it with warmth.
  • Remove the cold food. Dont keep eating your ice cream or drinking your slushy remove it so your palette can be exposed to warm air.
  • Press your thumb or tip of your finger against the roof of your mouth. This can help draw heat to your pallet and alleviate the cold feeling.

Can Brain Freeze Cause Long

And is it already too late?!

ByBjorn Carey | Published Aug 9, 2013 9:00 PM

Weve all sucked down a milkshake so quickly that it causes a sudden headachethe dreaded brain freeze. But . . . milkshake. Tasty. Must. Drink. Could chugging the rest of that shake cause lasting brain damage?

First, lets get one thing straight. This condition is referred to as an ice-cream headache, says Stacey Gray, a sinus surgeon at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston. Its a very technical term. Although theres no published paper saying as much, a milkshake slurped too quickly probably does not actually lower brain temperature. Besides, Gray says, the temporary pain cant do any harm because it has nothing to do with the brain.

There are two schools of thought on what causes the ice-cream headache. The drink may chill the air in your sinuses and cause the blood vessels in the nasal cavity near your forehead to constrict, creating pain similar to a migraine. Or perhaps it touches off a branch of the trigeminal nerve in your mouth, triggering a pain response in the nerve thats responsible for facial sensation.

The condition has not drawn research funding from the National Institutes of Health, so no one has performed the simple experiment that Gray says would settle things once and for all. You could block the nerve with an injection of lidocaine, cool the area, and if it still happens its probably a circulatory-system thing, she says. But no one seems that interested.

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Fun Facts About Brain Freeze

Here are some interesting facts you can use to impress your friends the next time they get a brain freeze.

Instead of laughing at them.

Brain Freeze Fact #1

Not everyone experiences ice cream headaches.

Its estimated that only about 30% of ice cream eaters experience them.

Brain Freeze Fact #2

The pain of a cold headache does not actually occur in your brain because your brain has no pain receptors.

Brain Freeze Fact #3

The Slurpee was invented by the convenience store chain 7-Eleven.

While they did not coin the term brain freeze, they did get a trademark for it.

Brain Freeze Fact #4

Anecdotally, the worst food for causing brain freeze is a Slurpee or similar frozen drink.

A budding young scientist wanted to know for sure which causes the worse brain freeze, Slurpees or ice cream.

So, he made finding out his California State Science Fair project.

He found that a Slurpee-induced headache starts sooner, lasts longer, and is more intense than an ice cream-induced headache.

Brain Freeze Fact #5

A brain freeze does not freeze your brain cells.

But if they ever did freeze, they would be ruptured by ice crystals and turn to mush.

Brain Freeze Fact #6

Frozen foods and drinks wont change the temperature of your brain.

But neurosurgeons often cool the brain substantially during brain surgery.

This stops blood circulation to and within the brain, allowing surgeons to operate more easily.

Brain Freeze Fact #7

This applies to cats as well.

Brain Freeze Fact #8

Prevent Brain Freeze Next Time You Eat Or Drink

What really happens to your body when you get a brain ...

Of course, the easiest way to keep brain freeze from striking is to avoid consuming ice-cold food and beverages, says Dr. MacGregor. But in the summer, or on a sunny warm vacation, that’s not all that realisticor fun.

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So prevent brain freeze from happening in the first place by eating your ice cream very slowly, especially during that initial bite or lick, so the nerves in your palate aren’t overwhelmed with the cold sensation. Or try eating cold food toward the front of your mouth, which helps you avoid the sensitive nerve endings toward the back that trigger brain freeze, suggests Dr. Natbony.

If none of these solutions help, Dr. Natbony also advises that you heat your cold food to a warmer temperature before putting it in your mouth. So if you can handle a soupy, warm pint of rocky road, stick your bowl in the microwave for a couple of seconds before devouring it.

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Why Do You Get Brain Freeze When You Drink A Slurpee

The Slurpee, Froster, or ICEE are the true champions of the brain freeze. The Slushee could never equal the ICEE in terms of brain freeze power! All you have to do is suck down an Icee too fast and youre almost guaranteed a satisfying, and yet not so satisfying, cold headache. Whats funny is weve got myths about the greatest brain freeze product ever invented, and weve got myths about the physiological origins of the brain freeze itself. But is it really a cold headache?

Most people realize that it has something to do with all that cold stuff hitting the roof of the mouth. But it doesnt just cause pain in the roof of the mouth. It causes a full-blown skull-exploding headache in the forehead and temple area. How? Here are some explanations. People will repeat one of these to you as if it has been rigorously proven, butnah.

Looking for a more efficient brain-freeze inducer? The Slurpee is your drink of choice, then.

Symptoms Of Brain Freeze

The symptoms of brain freeze include a sharp and sudden onset of pain in the frontal part of the head. This can feel like a dull ache or a sharp pain.

The pain can last anywhere from a few seconds to a full minute or two. This depends on how much of the cold food or liquid youve consumed and how quickly youve consumed it.

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Seeking Help For Brain Freeze

You dont need to see a doctor for a simple brain freeze that happens while youre enjoying a cold drink. But if youre experiencing regular headaches, you should seek the advice of a medical professional.

The same nerves that are responsible for a brain freeze are also involved in serious headache disorders, like cluster headache. These types of headaches cause severe, regular pain.

Some reports identify a possible connection between consuming a cold beverage and atrial fibrillation , which is a type of arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat.

This connection appears to be rare, but if you begin to experience irregular heartbeats after consuming a cold food or beverage, call your doctor. They may want you to come in for evaluation.

If your brain freeze lasts for more than 5 minutes, either with or without treatment, you may need to see your doctor. You should also seek help if you experience similar pain or discomfort when you havent consumed something cold or been in an extremely cold environment.

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