Have you ever felt an intense headache after gulping down something ice cold to cool you down on a scorching sunny day? We have all done it – despite better judgment. This pounding headache can almost make you regret that frozen stick of kulfi that you just guzzled into.

Also known as icecream headache, cold stimulus headache or its hard to pronounce scientific name, sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia – Brain Freeze can catch you off guard at many times. Understanding brain freeze will help you to prevent the occurrence of such episodes. 

Understanding Brain Freeze

The exact cause of brain freeze is not really known. But scientists believe that it has to do with the sudden changes in the blood flow to your brain. It can last a few seconds, before gradually fading away.

Prevalent during the summers, brain freeze happens when a cold substance like ice cream or smoothie or anything too cold is consumed. The nerves present in the roof of the mouth to detect the change in temperature and send a message to the brain, which then causes the arteries and blood vessels to react.

The blood vessels in your brain widen, sending a rush of blood to the roof of your mouth. As a result, it causes pain in your forehead and your head begins to throb.


How to Stop Brain Freeze?

Brain freeze is not considered to be dangerous. It’s all about slowing down and being patient before you eat or drink something cold.

Staying away from cold things during the scorching heat of summer is not really fun. However, the easiest way to prevent it is to consume it slowly so that your mouth can warm up the food. Experts recommend keeping it in front of your mouth since it is the further back stimulation that triggers the nerves and the brain to react.

Try using a spoon rather than a straw to drink those cold drinks slushies or milkshakes. Using a straw can channelizes the cold liquidly directly to the nerves that can trigger pain. Aim the straw towards the front or side of the mouth.

If eating ice cream, don’t have them rock solid. Let them warm up a bit. Eat slowly using your spoon upside down and lick it off with your tongue.

If you begin feeling a brain freeze coming your way, warm your way out of it. You can press your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The heat from the tongue will help to warm up the mouth. Also, you can have a sip of warm water slowly to mitigate the cold sensation in your palate.

Another way to prevent it is to open your mouth, cover it with your hand and take deep breaths in through your mouth and out through your nose. Some people also get relief by tilting their head back for 10 to 20 seconds.

Brain Freeze and Health Risks

The same nerves that are responsible for brain freeze are also involved in headache disorders such as migraines and cluster headaches. In fact, studies have found out that people who have migraines are twice as likely to experience brain freeze.

So, people who suffer from migraines should be cautious before devouring a scoop or two of their favorite frozen treat.

It is very rare, but cold foods can also cause Afib or Atrial Fibrillation. This is when your heart rate goes out of rhythm when the nervous system is affected by the cold and triggers heart palpitations.

Brain freeze is painful but a harmless and temporary condition. You can easily prevent it by consuming cold stuff slowly and try one of the tactics listed above to warm your mouth and rid off your pain. Stay safe this summer!


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