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Brain freeze triggered by drinking cold fluids - Ogden Clinic provided source, Standard-Examiner 06/12/2013

(Standard-Examiner) Summer is almost here, and that means a lot of people will be suffering from sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.

That’s the scientific term for brain freeze or ice-cream headache.

When it’s hot outside, many people reach for an ice-cold drink or an ice cream cone, which they eat or gulp too quickly. That leads to a type of headache called brain freeze, which is your body’s way of putting on the brakes, telling you to slow down and take it easy.

“Brain freeze is a type of headache that is a brief headache triggered by the consumption of cold drinks or food,” said Dr. A. Nadim Al-Sadat, an Ogden neurologist. “The symptoms are a sharp headache in the front of the head that lasts between five and 20 seconds and are triggered after consuming cold drinks or food about five to 10 seconds later after consumption.”

Dr. Christine Nefcy, a pediatrician and chief medical officer at Intermountain Healthcare Northern Region, said it is thought that the cold stimulus to the roof of the mouth causes the blood vessels to rapidly constrict, then quickly enlarge. The rapid enlargement of the blood vessels triggers the nerves above the roof of the mouth, which causes referred pain in the head.

“It is not dangerous, nor does it damage your head, mouth or brain,” she said.

Despite its billions of neurons, the brain can’t actually feel pain, said the physicians. Instead, the pain is sensed by meninges, which are receptors in the outer covering of the brain where the internal carotoid and anterior cerebral arteries meet. And because the brain isn’t a fan of change, it’s best to take things slow.

“The headache is usually brief and goes away on its own,” Al-Sadat said. “Slowly eating the food or drinking can help, or allowing the ice cream to stay in the mouth for some time to warm up before swallowing can help.”

The only cure for a brain freeze is to stop drinking and eating ice-cold products. You can also jam your tongue up to the roof of your mouth to warm it up or drink something lukewarm.