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Pain kicks when eating ice cream - what can you do about it?
Have you ever felt a sharp pain in your head while eating ice cream or drinking a cold milkshake? Especially in the hot summer days, ice-cold drinks and ice cream are a popular way to cool down. It is not uncommon for a severe stabbing headache that lasts for several seconds and then disappears. A specialist explains what is behind the unpopular "brain frost".
Brain frost, ice headache, brain freeze - the painful consequences of eating ice cream have many names. "We doctors call this a cold headache," explains Dr. Amaal Starling, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic, one of the most renowned clinics in America. Rapid pain changes in the blood vessels caused by the absorption of cold substances are responsible for the pain surges.
Cold, tasty and sometimes painful
As the neurologist reports, the sudden pain is mainly due to the blood vessels in the mouth and back of the throat. "If these vessels are quickly exposed to something very cold, they narrow or become smaller," explains the neurologist. In response, the vessels expand again. The rapid change activates the pain receptors, which then trigger the well-known "brain frost".
Intense but not dangerous
According to Starling, such painful bursts can be very intense and last for several seconds. But such pain is not dangerous. If you want to avoid the pain, you should avoid the triggers. But that doesn't mean that you have to do without ice cream and milkshakes. Drinking or eating slowly can usually prevent the effect, according to the specialist. (vb)
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Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Mayo Clinic: Ice cream brain freeze (accessed: 07/26/2019), mayoclinic.org