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It’s the hottest day of the year, and you decide an ice cream cone would hit the spot. The first bite is a big one, and then the pain sets in. You have an ice cream headache and immediately try to figure out how to stop brain freeze.
Brain freeze, or ice cream headaches, are as much a part of summer as baseball and backyard barbecues. The phenomenon occurs when you eat something very cold, very fast. It comes on quickly, lasts only a few seconds, but feels like it goes on forever.
So, let’s take a look at what causes ice cream headaches and how to stop brain freeze.
Although you feel the pain of a brain freeze in your head, it actually starts at the back of the roof of your mouth. There is a hard palate region and a soft palate region back there. There are also some blood vessels that come down beside the teeth. Your mouth and tongue are actually highly vascularized—meaning they have lots of blood vessels.
When something cold touches the blood vessels at the back of your mouth, they contract. But it’s not that contraction from the cold that causes your discomfort. It’s what happens when they start to warm up that brings about the brain freeze.
That sudden rush of blood brings about a “mini-migraine.” Wake Forest University researcher Dwayne Godwin says that despite its millions of neurons, the brain can't actually feel pain. He says the pain associated with brain freeze is sensed by receptors in the outer covering of the brain called the meninges, where the two arteries meet.
The good news is there are some things you can try to stop brain freeze. You can also do some things to keep it from happening in the first place. They include:
If you already have an ice cream headache, here’s how you can stop brain freeze in its tracks. Try things like:
If you’re trying to figure how to stop brain freeze altogether, the answer is simple: don’t eat ice cream or very cold drinks. Since we know that is practically impossible to do, just keep these tips handy the next time you feel an ice cream headache coming on. Another thing you can do is to download our “Summer Survival Guide.” You’ll find even more tips to make this summer enjoyable, including ways to avoid heat-related illnesses.