What is brain freeze?

A brain freeze, also known as an ice cream headache, happens when cold foods pressing on the roof of your mouth trigger overlying nerves to rapidly widen blood vessels and to increase blood flow, perhaps in an attempt to warm up the head in response to the cold.

This is not a medical term, but generally used to describe a headache caused by cooling of the palate, generally by a food. The pain is usually in the front of the head and pounding. It resolves when this region warms up. It is sometimes referred to as “ice cream headache” but medically called “cold stimulus headache.”

Treatment is not necessary as it is brief, but can be avoided by eating the cold food more slowly and therefore warming between bites.

“Brain freeze,” or a cold stimulus headache, is a pain over the entire head that can be caused by exposure of the head to the cold, or by drinking or eating something cold ("ice cream headache"). The headaches usually start within seconds and end within a minute. They may be caused by triggering of a nerve (the trigeminal nerve) by the cold stimulus, and treatment is easy: avoid the cold stimulus.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.