Ice cream headaches, also known as ‘brain freeze’ and cold-stimulus headaches, are short, severe stabbing headaches that come on quickly after eating or drinking something cold.

Many people suffer this quite severe pain shortly after eating ice cream or having other extremely cold food or drinks. Usually the pain is a stabbing, or severe aching, sensation that lasts between 20 seconds and a couple of minutes. It is generally felt in the middle of the forehead, but may be behind one eye or in the temple (side of the head).

The exact cause of ice cream headache is not fully understood, but it is believed that contact between the cold substance and the warm rear part of the palate (roof of the mouth) and back of the throat makes the pain occur.

Ice cream headache is not a sign of anything serious. Anyone can have an ice cream headache, but people who have migraines are more susceptible. Nothing can be done to stop attacks except to try to avoid letting ice cream or other cold things come in contact with the roof of your mouth, and eat cold things slowly.

Last Reviewed: 29/09/2015

myDr



References

1. NHS Choices. 10 headache triggers. June 2015. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/headaches/Pages/Headachetriggers.aspx (accessed Sept 2015).
2. Mayo Clinic. Ice cream headache. March 2015. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ice-cream-headaches/basics/definition/con-20024906?p=1 (accessed Sept 2015).
3. Medscape. Rare primary headaches. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/825192_7 (accessed Sept 2015).