Everyone’s experienced it. You chomp into that huge scoop of ice cream or chug that frozen drink, and all of a sudden it hits you. The extreme stabbing pain in your head that feels like your brain might actually explode. Well, maybe not that bad. But it has been known to cause even the toughest of men to crumble in agony.
So to understand how to stop brain freeze, we first have to know what causes it. Warning… here comes the science. When something cold touches the roof of your mouth, your blood vessels contract in order to prevent any loss of body heat. As you swallow your ice cream or finish your Slurpee, the cold recedes and the blood vessels go back to normal, which quickly increases blood flow to your brain. This sudden rush of blood is what causes that terrible, terrible pain.
To stop brain freeze before it starts, you can simply prevent anything cold from contacting the roof of your mouth. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. Just let that ice cream warm on your tongue for a few seconds before you swallow. Those few seconds will provide the necessary warmth you need to avoid brain freeze.
But if you’re already in a full on brain freeze, here are a few quick tips of how to help relieve the associated agonizing pain.
- Warm the roof of your mouth. You can do this a lot different ways. One is to touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth. If you have the ability to roll your tongue, this is even better. The bottom of your tongue will be warmer, mostly because the top is still covered in ice cream. You can also use your breath. Just cup your hand over your mouth and nose and breathe in and out through your mouth. This rush of warm air will help heat up the sensitive nerves in the roof of your mouth.
- Rub the Back of Your Neck. A gentle rub on the back of the neck will help take away sensation from all the pain you’re feeling in your head.
- Drink lukewarm water. Pretty simple explanation here. The warm water will instantly warm the roof of your mouth and help stop brain freeze.
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The UPMC Department of Neurosurgery is the largest academic neurosurgical provider in the United States. We treat conditions of the brain, skull base, spine, and nerves, including the most complex disorders. We perform more than 11,000 procedures each year, making our team one of the most experienced in the world. Whether your condition requires surgery or not, we strive to provide the most advanced, complete care possible. Our surgeons are developing new techniques and tools, including minimally invasive treatments. Find an expert near you.