How To Stop Brain Freeze

On a hot summer day, there’s nothing like taking a big gulp of ice-cold water or a slushy beverage to cool down. Then it hits you: a bolt of intense pain in the temples, forehead, or behind the eyes or nose. Brain freeze — otherwise known as ice cream headache — is technically known as cold neuralgia or sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. Big words for a short, but agonizing, episode. What causes ice cream headaches? Relax, it’s nothing serious. When you eat or drink a large quantity of very cold food or liquid, you drop the temperature of the palate (the roof of your mouth) pretty substantially. The blood vessels automatically constrict, which is a survival reflex to maintain your body’s core temperature. After the squeeze, the blood vessels open up — quickly. This rebound dilation sends a pain signal to the brain through a nerve called the trigeminal nerve, whose upper branch extends into the mid-face and forehead. If you get nailed by brain freeze, act fast. If possible, remove the cold food or drink from your mouth, and press your tongue or your thumb against the roof of your mouth. Drinking warm water can help, too. Don’t bother grabbing an aspirin or Tylenol — by the time it kicks in, the brain freeze will be over. To prevent brain freeze to begin with, take smaller bites or sips of cold food and drink, warming them up in your mouth before swallowing.