Cartoon brain with ice effect experiencing brain freeze. Cartoon brain with ice effect experiencing brain freeze.

Can You Die from Brain Freeze?

Doesn’t it happen a lot of times that you are happily enjoying your chilled drink or having an ice cream and suddenly you have an acute headache, like a striking pain? That is what we call a brain freeze or cold stimulus headache or brain freeze headaches. 

You can actually think of this as a cramp for the palette, just like when you move suddenly in a quick manner and your leg gets cramped, it is quite similar to that. Let’s understand more about it in the article below.

1. The Science Behind Brain Freeze: Can You Die from Brain Freeze?

Sometimes, brain freeze is also referred to as an ice cream headache and the nerve involved in ice cream headaches is known as the trigeminal nerve.  Scientifically this phenomenon, known as sphenopalatine ganglion neuralgia, is a common occurrence when something cold touches the roof of your mouth (palate). 

It happens because the blood vessels in the palate constrict when exposed to cold, and then rapidly dilate when warmed, causing that extreme discomfort.

When the blood vessels get constricted, the pain receptors get activated; so this sends signals to the nerves of the face and the head which leads to pain in the forehead, temples, and the face.

2. The Duration and Symptoms of a Brain Freeze

Now that you know that is just not a feeling that some people feel and others do not, and it is a proven scientific fact, obviously, the next question is how long this lasts and what other symptoms accompany a brain freeze. 

So, usually, a brain freeze does not really last longer than 30-40 seconds, but if we actually see the whole process that is the cold peak rises from the extremely cold stimulus to it slowly fading out it can take a couple of minutes too. 

Ice-cream headache (Medical Condition)

During this cold strike in your head, you feel like your brain is throbbing, you can feel that sensation and pain. It is not limited to the forehead but also to the temples, it becomes quite distressing. 

Although, no matter how hard it gets for those couple minutes always remember that it is a transient state, and the pain and the sensation will pass by. 

3. How to Alleviate Brain Freeze?

Although we know that it is transient, some people can be very sensitive or may experience it many times, so what is the solution if you go through this painful sensation every time?

Well, no solution. There is a simple process to alleviate brain freeze that you can follow to relieve yourself from the pain. 

Atlanta Kids Popsicle Eating Contest
Source: Depositphotos

As we read above due to the extreme cold, the blood vessels get constricted. To dilate them they need something hot.

To facilitate that, press your tongue against the roof of your mouth and you will feel instant relief; sometimes, placing your hand over your mouth can help trap the warm air and speed up the process.

If you experienced a brain freeze due to the consumption of an icy cold drink then for future reference always take slow and small sips of your drink; in this manner, you will not cause sudden temperature shocks for your palette, and reduce the chances of a brain freeze.

Woman Holding Drink Smiling Head Touch
Source: Depositphotos

You will be surprised to know, that Dr. Jorge Serrador, a cardiovascular electronics researcher, concluded that scientists have not fully understood the real cause of brain freeze and they studied that the brain freeze sensation appears to be caused by a dramatic and sudden increase in blood flow through the brain’s anterior cerebral artery, and the sensation goes off as soon as the artery constricts.

4. Is Recurring Brain Freeze a Problem?: Can You Die from Brain Freeze?

Though brain freeze itself is harmless, if you ever experience severe, persistent headaches or intense pain unrelated to cold food or beverages, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional. 

Woman Suffering From Headache
Source: Depositphotos

These headaches could be indicative of other underlying health issues that require attention and you might be having some issues with your teeth or issues with your nervous system as well. Getting a professional checkup done, will help you to understand it better and get the correct diagnosis on time.

5. How to Prevent Brain Freeze?

As we mentioned above prevention would be avoiding the consumption of extremely cold beverages or food items. In case it is recurring, then it will be advised to shift to hot alternatives for these food items/drinks. People with migraine sometimes are said to be more susceptible to brain freeze issues, but it is not a problem for them.

Some people might say that if the headache is very painful or the sensation is something that you can not handle then you can pop a pill like an aspirin, but it is usually of no use. This is because the brain freeze pain is short-lived and by the time any medicine would really have an effect, the pain, and the sensation would be gone.

Tooth Sensitivity Cold Ice Cream Reaction
Source: Depositphotos

Also, it would be very unnecessary to just take a medicine for such a small problem, your body should be able to handle such small durations of pain. It is not so excruciating that a person might actually soothe it with a medicine.

6. Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the icy discomfort caused during a brain freeze is an unwelcome interruption during your frozen treat indulgence, but rest assured, it won’t lead to any life-threatening situations. Armed with a better understanding of the science behind it and some quick relief strategies, you can tackle brain freezes with confidence.

So, go ahead, enjoy your ice pops without fear, and remember, moderation is the key to keeping those brain freezes at bay. Consult a doctor only in case of any extraordinary situation like increased breathing or symptoms like arterial fibrillation.

This could mean that the situation has a deeper meaning and the cause could also be different, thereby requiring a different type of treatment.

  1. What a fascinating insight into brain freeze! The trigeminal nerve’s role and the vascular response to cold exposure make it clear. The article’s tips for relief, like pressing the tongue on the palate, provide practical solutions. It’s reassuring to know that, despite the discomfort, brain freeze is transient and manageable.

  2. This article is very helpful. Some studies suggest that patients who experience migraine headaches may be more susceptible to brain freeze headaches. In general, it is a very quick pain that dissipates in minutes. When you’re feeling brain freeze, remove the cold trigger and press your tongue or thumb to the roof of your mouth to warm it up. You also can drink warm or room-temperature water.

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