Brain freeze, or ice cream headache, is an intense pain in the head caused by eating or drinking something cold. It’s not serious and goes away in a few seconds or minutes. If you get one, try to bring the temperature in your mouth and throat back to normal. Here's how to thaw that brain freeze.
Brain freeze is a brief but intense pain in the front part of your head. It occurs when you eat, drink or breathe something extremely cold, such as:
A brain freeze is sometimes called an ice cream headache, a cold-induced headache or a cold stimulus headache. The scientific term is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.
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Anyone can get a brain freeze. Children may be more likely to get brain freeze because they may not have learned to slow down when eating something fun like an ice pop.
Some research has shown that sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia is more common in people who get migraine headaches.
Unlike other headaches, a brain freeze comes and goes quickly. It usually lasts only a few seconds to two minutes. It goes away on its own, without medicine or rest.
Other headaches can cause other symptoms. For example, a migraine can make you feel sick to your stomach (nausea). Some headaches can make it hard to tolerate bright light or loud noise. A brain freeze does not cause any other symptoms.
When your body senses sudden, extreme cold in the mouth or throat, it tries to react and warm up. Blood vessels throughout the head expand to let extra blood into the area for warmth. That quick change in blood vessel size causes sudden pain.
If you get an ice cream headache, try to get the temperature of your mouth and throat back to normal:
The only way to prevent brain freeze is to avoid sudden, extreme temperature changes in the mouth, throat and head. For example:
You don’t need medical attention for a brain freeze. But if you get frequent headaches that last a while, talk to your healthcare provider.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A brain freeze can be painful, but it’s not serious and goes away on its own quickly. You can prevent ice cream headaches by avoiding very cold foods, drinks and freezing air. If you get a brain freeze, try pressing your thumb or tongue against the roof of your mouth. Or drink something warm or room temperature.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/15/2021.
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