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Wednesday, February 10, 2016
What is brain freeze?
When cold items (like food or beverages) contact the roof of your mouth, they can activate the nerves there (in the spheno-palantine ganglion, to be precise) that cause the blood vessels in your brain to become larger. This change in blood vessel size is associated with a headache. You can make the headache go away by warming the roof of your mouth back up, thereby constricting (narrowing) the blood vessels. The easiest thing to do is to press your tongue to the roof of your mouth. You can also try drinking warm water. It is helpful to try eating or drinking cold items slowly and give yourself breaks between bites to let your mouth warm up. The headaches felt with "brain freeze" are similar to migraine headaches. People who have migraine headaches commonly also experience "brain freezes". Migraine headaches are "vascular headaches" and are associated with changes in brain blood vessel size as well.
Brett Kissela, MD
Assistant Professor of Neurology
Director, Neurology Residency Program
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati