Enjoy the ice cream, skip the brain freeze

Enjoy the ice cream, skip the brain freeze

Brain freeze is practically a rite of summer. It happens when you eat ice cream or gulp something ice cold too quickly. The sudden introduction of something at 0 F to the center back of the throat can stimulate a reaction comparable to slamming your forehead into a brick wall.

This nonlife-threatening body ache occurs when a sudden temperature change of the internal carotid artery, which feeds blood to the brain, meets the anterior carotid artery, which is where brain tissue starts.

The sudden temperature change causes a dilation and contraction of these arteries, resulting in a brief but agonizing headache. The scientific term is sphenopalatine ganglionneuralgia or more commonly known as brain freeze. It is the body’s way of putting on the brakes, telling you to slow down, take it easy and take smaller bites or swallows.

An ice cream headache is an example of “referred pain.” This type of pain occurs when changes happening in one part of the body trigger pain in another part of the body.

The only good thing about an ice cream headache is it is short lived. This headache can last between seconds to minutes. Usually, it is gone in less than five minutes. Taking medication for an ice cream headache is not worth it because it disappears before the medication kicks in.

The best remedy is to immediately change the temperature toward the back of the mouth. Drinking warm water can reduce the pain quickly. Curling the tongue or pressing the tongue to the roof of the mouth is a clever way to dispel brain freeze before your friends notice you’ve been gobbling your ice cream.

Young children can benefit by sticking their thumb in their mouth. The best way to prevent brain freeze is to eat and drink cold foods and beverages slowly. Being aware of possible brain freeze is the best deterrent.

These cold-stimulus headaches are common, occurring in many people who don’t usually have headaches. Because ice cream headaches are so short lived, they’re hard to study. Experts do believe they are more common in people who get migraines.

Not everyone has been unlucky enough to experience brain freeze. Research has found these sudden headaches are less likely outside of the American population. You are more likely to get ice cream headaches if your parents get them. Some people’s nerves may be more sensitive than others. The question remains if this is a result of genetics or the American habit of eating ice cream too fast.

Enjoy your favorite frozen delight, headache free. Ice cream abstinence is not indicated. Do not invite the brain freeze monster to an ice cream eating party on a warm summer night. Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or any other variety in smaller bites can make it last longer without a possible headache.

Bobbie Randall is a certified diabetes care and education specialist and registered, licensed dietitian. Email her at bobbierandallrd@gmail.com.

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