Big or small. Child or grownup. Vanilla or chocolate. It doesn’t discriminate, and it hits faster than a jab from Muhammad Ali — it’s brain freeze.
That ice cream-induced headache can quickly bring an otherwise happy child to tears and take the fun out of enjoying a cold treat on a hot day.
What causes brain freeze to happen?
“A brain freeze is a short-term headache caused when ingesting cold substances,” said Brian Plato, D.O., neurologist and headache specialist with Norton Neuroscience Institute’s Headache & Concussion Center. “The sensation is caused when there is an overload to the trigeminal nerves, which then send a signal back to the brain — triggering a headache.”
And it all goes back to our prehistoric days. Researchers believe brain freeze is a sort of defense mechanism in which the body wants to keep the brain warm so that it can function properly.
Brain freeze may feel incredibly painful; however, it is not dangerous to children or adults.
Here are some tips to prevent brain freeze:
• Eat or drink your cold treat slowly, taking in small amounts at a time.
• Take short breaks in between bites or sips to give your palate a moment to warm up.
• Top your frozen treat with fruit, nuts or whipped cream to increase the temperature.
If your child is hot and can’t help but suck down that slushy, here are some tips for brain freeze relief:
• Tilt your head back for 10 seconds to slow the blood flow to the brain.
• Drink warm water to instantly warm the upper palate of the mouth.
• Press your thumb or tongue against the roof of your mouth.
Dr. Plato says brain freeze usually lasts about a minute and almost never lasts more than 5 minutes. Individuals who get migraines are most susceptible to this type of headache.
You or your child may feel pain, but remember it’s not dangerous and doesn’t mean that anything is wrong in the body.