How to Lick Ice Cream Headache

Enjoy cold foods slowly or suffer the consequences, expert advises

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WEDNESDAY, July 14, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Many of us have experienced them -- that sudden surge of pain in the forehead known as an ice cream headache.

Ice cream headaches (that's the actual medical term) last a few seconds to about a minute. They affect about a third of the population, but doctors don't really know much about them.

"We know that ice cream headaches are triggered when a cold food or drink hits the roof of the mouth, but it's not definitely known why that causes pain," Dr. David Roby, a neurologist at Temple University Hospital, said in a prepared statement.

"The general belief is that the sudden change in temperature causes an overstimulation of the central nervous system," Roby said.

He added that brain freezes are like mini-migraine headaches. Interestingly, people who suffer migraines are especially susceptible to ice cream headaches.

"Migraine sufferers are sensitive to environmental stimuli such as light, sound, and temperature. About 93 percent of people who do experience [migraines] and only 30 percent of people who do not get migraines experience ice cream headaches," Roby said.

If you want to avoid an ice cream headache, eat ice cream and other cold foods slowly, he advised.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about ice cream headache.

SOURCE: Temple University Health System news release, June 29, 2004

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