Why Do We Get Brain Freeze: Causes and Remedies

Most people know the feeling of a brain freeze—that sudden, intense pain in your head that makes you want to scream.

But why do we get brain freeze? What’s actually happening when our brain gets cold? Is there anything we can do to stop this uncomfortable feeling? Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment for brain freezes.

Learn in This Article

  • What Is a Brain Freeze
  • What Causes a Brain Freeze
  • Who Gets a Brain Freeze
  • How to Cure Brain Freeze
  • How to Prevent Brain Freeze

What Is a Brain Freeze

The so-called “brain freeze” is a sensation of pain or discomfort in the brain caused by eating cold foods. The medical term for brain freeze is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.

Despite this tongue twister of a name, brain freezes are often short but mildly painful episodes. On average, a brain freeze migraine can last anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes.

Why Do We Get Brain Freeze

What Causes a Brain Freeze

Anyone who has ever slurped on a brain freeze-inducing milkshake knows the sudden, intense pain that can radiate from the temples. But what exactly causes this phenomenon?

The main cause of brain freeze is seen when the body suddenly senses an extreme cold feeling in the mouth. As the body immediately reacts to that specific area, the blood vessel in the head will try to let more blood create warmth. Of course, the sudden dilation of blood vessels will trigger a sharp headache.

Who Gets a Brain Freeze

Now that we’ve learned about brain freeze symptoms and causes, we can say anyone can get a brain freeze. However, it’s not wrong to assume that some people are more prone to brain freeze than others.

People with migraines, for example, are more likely to experience brain freeze because of their sensitive blood vessels. Age also appears to be a factor, as children are more likely to get brain freeze than adults.

How to Cure Brain Freeze

Although there’s no brain freeze treatment available, there are a few tricks that will help you stop this pain even faster. First of all, stop eating or drinking a cold beverage or dish. Consider consuming a room-temperature liquid to restore warmth.

Last but not least, press the tip of your tongue or thumb against the roof of your mouth to warm it up. If the “ice cream headache” shows up frequently, you might want to avoid eating cold foods altogether.

Why Do We Get Brain Freeze

How to Prevent Brain Freeze

When consuming ice-cold beverages and foods, preventing brain freeze is possible. Consider melting your beverage or food in the mouth before swallowing to avoid extreme changes in temperature.

Besides food and drinks, even cold air can impact your brain. To avoid brain freeze, wear a scarf or face mask to protect yourself from the change in temperature.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are brain freezes harmful?

Despite the unpleasantness of a brain freeze, the condition is not harmful and doesn’t cause any long-term damage. In fact, some people believe that experiencing a brain freeze can be good for you—here’s why. The body is forcing you to stop eating your cold treat and prevent you from losing blood and oxygen.

How do you stop a brain freeze?

Stopping a brain freeze and getting rid of it quickly is possible. Try pressing your tongue or thumb against the roof of your mouth. You can also try drinking a warm or room-temperature beverage or eating warm food. The warmth will help to thaw out the area and ease the pain.

How long does a brain freeze last?

Brain freeze typically lasts from a few seconds to about two minutes. However, some people have reported experiencing headaches lasting up to ten minutes. While brain freeze may be uncomfortable, it’s not dangerous at all.

Why Do We Get Brain Freeze: Key Takeaways

  • A brain freeze is caused by the constriction of blood vessels in the head.
  • The condition is more common in children and people with migraines.
  • To prevent a brain freeze, eat or drink cold items slowly or consume a room-temperature meal or drink.
  • If you get a brain freeze, try pressing your tongue or thumb against the roof of your mouth.
  • Most brain freezes last for about two minutes and are not harmful.