by Radhika Bajaj
Remember that hot summer day at the beach? When the sun was beaming on you and you were taking pleasure in licking that soft, cold, creamy desert — an ice cream? But suddenly your delight was interrupted by a throbbing pain which went to you brain. You cried out to your friend, “Ugh, I just had a brain freeze!”. Ever wondered what caused that brain freeze?
What causes a brain freeze?
Ice cream headache, cold stimulus headache, and sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia are other words to describe a brain freeze. A brain freeze happens when you drink or eat something cold too quickly, typically during a hot season. People describe it as headaches or throbbing pain in the head which lasts for a short amount of time. When the cold product touches your upper palate, it triggers your trigeminal nerve. Sensations in the forehead and temple are governed by this nerve. As a response, it causes changes in blood flow in arteries, and hence, the headaches. The cold temperatures cause arteries to narrow, resulting in less blood flow (vasoconstriction). Subsequently, when you attempt to warm your mouth, the arteries widen, leading to an increased blood flow (vasodilation).
Not everyone experiences a brain freeze. The sensitivity of the trigeminal nerve varies amongst people. Furthermore, scientists know that people who endure brain freezes are more vulnerable to having migraines. This could be because of a connection to the trigeminal nerve in both cases. A study showed that 93% of migraine patients were also prone to brain freeze.
Some ways to combat a brain freeze in the moment are drinking warm water, wedging your tongue to the roof of your mouth to warm it, or breathing while covering your mouth to bring back temperatures in your mouth to normal. It’s fine, a brain freeze only lasts for 20-30 seconds anyways!