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

Can You Die From Brain Freeze?

Does it ever happen 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. You will be surprised to know that over 40% of people suffer from brain freeze! And it can be you, too, so let’s understand more about it in the article below.

Sometimes, brain freeze is also referred to as an ice cream headache, and the nerve involved is known as the trigeminal nerve.  Scientifically, this phenomenon is known as Sphenopalatine Ganglion(SPG) neuralgia, commonly occurring 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 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 face.

The Duration and Symptoms of a Brain Freeze

Now that you know, that is not a feeling that some people feel but a proven scientific fact. The next question that will arise in your mind is how long this lasts and what the other symptoms are that accompany a brain freeze. 

So, usually, a brain freeze does not last longer than 30-40 seconds, but if we see the whole process, that is, the cold peak rising 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 to the temples; it becomes quite distressing. 

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, there is no solution. There is a simple process to alleviate brain freeze that you can follow to relieve yourself from the pain. 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. The brain freeze pain is short-lived, and by the time any medicine has an effect, the pain and the sensation are gone. Also, it would be unnecessary to just take medicine for such a small problem; your body should be able to handle such small amounts of pain. It is not so excruciating that a person might soothe it with a medicine.

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. People with migraine sometimes are said to be more susceptible to brain freeze issues, but it is not a problem for them.

Brain Freeze
Source: Depositphotos

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

So, Can You Die From Brain Freeze?

You might have come across this question while reading the article. Well, brain freezes are mostly 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. 

Brain Freeze
Source: Depositphotos

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

The Icy Solution!

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.

Last Updated on April 23, 2024 by Arnab Nandi


Anushree Khandelwal
  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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