why do you get an ice cream headache

Ice cream headaches are brief, stabbing headaches that can happen when you eat, drink or inhale something cold. Biting into an ice cream cone is a common trigger, but eating or drinking other frosty items, such as ice pops and slushy frozen drinks, can have the same "brain-freeze" effect. Officially known as cold stimulus headaches, they can also occur when you suddenly expose your unprotected head to cold temperatures, such as by diving into cold water. The good news: Most ice cream headaches are gone as quickly as they develop. Sharp, stabbing pain in the forehead
Because ice cream headaches quickly go away, there's no need to see a doctor. Ice cream headaches are caused either by exposing your head to sudden, extreme cold or by having something cold move across the roof of your mouth and the back of your throat, such as when you eat ice cream quickly or gulp a cold drink. Scientists are unsure about the exact mechanism that causes this pain. One theory is that the cold temporarily alters blood flow in your nervous system, causing a brief headache.


Blood vessels constrict to prevent the loss of body heat and then relax again to let blood flow rise, resulting in a burst of pain that goes away once the body adapts to the temperature change. Ice cream headaches can affect anyone. But you might be more susceptible to ice cream headaches or have more-severe ice cream headaches if you're prone to migraines. The best way to avoid getting ice cream headaches is to avoid the cold food or drinks or exposure to cold that causes them. Brain freeze is also known as ice cream headache, cold stimulus headache, and sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. It is a short-term headache typically linked to the rapid consumption of ice cream, ice pops, or very cold drinks. Brain freeze occurs when something extremely cold touches the upper palate (roof of the mouth). It typically happens when the weather is very hot, and the individual consumes something cold too fast. Harvard Medical School scientists who have investigated the causes of brain freeze, believe that their findings could eventually pave the way to more effective treatments for various types of, such as migraine-related ones, or pain caused by brain injuries.


It's not just ice cream; any cold stimulus can cause the nerve pain that results in the sensation of a brain freeze. Cooling of the capillaries of the sinuses by a cold stimulus, which results in vasoconstriction (a narrowing of the blood vessels). A quick rewarming by a warm stimulus such as the air, which results in vasodilation (a widening of the blood vessels). These rapid changes near the sensitive nerves in the palate create the sensation of brain freeze. The proximity of very sensitive nerves and the extreme stimuli changes are what cause the nerves to react. Dr. Jorge Serrador, a cardiovascular electronics researcher, highlighted research in The FASEB Journal (April 2012 Issue), which explained that, until now, scientists have not been able to fully understand what causes brain freeze. Dr. Serrador's research involved: asking them to sip ice-cold water through a straw, so that the liquid would hit their upper palate They found that the sensation of brain freeze appears to be caused by a dramatic and sudden increase in blood flow through the brain's anterior cerebral artery.


As soon as the artery constricted, the brain-freeze pain sensation wore off. The scientists were able to trigger the artery's constriction by giving the volunteers warm water to drink. The sensation is not serious, but can be very unpleasant. Brain freeze treatments include: pushing the tongue to the roof of the mouth, which helps warm the area A preventative cure is reducing the cold stimuli on the palate, which means avoiding large amounts of cold food or drink at once. Dr. Serrador explains that we already know that sufferers are more likely to suffer brain freeze after consuming very cold food or drink, compared with people who never have migraines. He suggests that some of what occurs during brain freeze may be similar to what causes migraines, and possibly other kinds of headaches, including those caused by traumatic brain injuries.


Serrador and team believe that local changes in brain blood flow may be causing other types of headaches. If this can be confirmed in further studies, new medications that prevent or reverse vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels) may help treat headaches. Dr. Serrador said: "The brain is one of the relatively important organs in the body, and it needs to be working all the time. It's fairly sensitive to temperature, so vasodilation might be moving warm blood inside tissue to make sure the brain stays warm. " If dilated arteries cause a sudden rush of blood to the brain, which raises pressure and causes pain, a drug that constricts the blood vessel should reduce pressure and eliminate the pain. Also, constricting the blood vessels that supply the brain could help prevent pressure building up dangerously high. If you're still wondering about the science behind brain freeze, this video by the SciShow team takes a look at how brain freeze occurs and discusses the quick ways in which to get rid of it.

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