There’s nothing like a cold drink on a hot day, but nothing ruins that treat quite like drinking it too fast and experiencing that sharp burst of pain in your head known as a brain freeze.
A brain freeze is a not-so-scientific name for the stimulation of a group of nerves behind your nose called the sphenopalatine ganglion. Per Healthline, the pain occurs when you eat or drink a cold beverage or treat and can cause you to feel like your head is about to explode anywhere from a couple of seconds to several minutes. Other names for the condition are ice cream brain, ice cream headache, and cold-induced headache.
So what causes a brain freeze? Scientists aren’t exactly sure. One theory is that the brief but excruciating pain is simply your brain’s blood vessels responding to the sudden chill of whatever you’re consuming. It’s thought that whatever causes brain freeze could also be what causes migraines, another type of headache that medical researchers have yet to unravel.
Here's how to avoid a brain freeze
Per Medscape, kids are far more likely than adults to experience brain freeze. While the sensation is far from pleasant, the good news is that brain freezes don’t last too long and don’t require any medical attention.
They’re also fairly easy to avoid; it’s all about pacing yourself. “To avoid brain freeze, eat the cold food much more slowly so that your mouth can warm up the food — don’t inhale it,” Dr. Stephanie Vertrees, a neurologist, said in a news release from Texas A&M College of Medicine (via HealthDay). “Keep it in the front of your mouth: the further-back stimulation is what triggers the brain freeze.”
To alleviate the pain of a brain freeze already in progress, Vertrees recommends pushing against the roof of your mouth with your tongue. This should warm things up in your body and help the headache subside faster.
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