WTF Fun Fact 13186 – Medical Term for Ice Cream Headache

Eating ice cream too fast can hurt! In fact, so many people have experienced the phenomenon of these headaches (also called “brain freeze”) that there’s an official name for them. The medical term for ice cream headache is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.

Why is there a medical term for ice cream headache?

The world loves ice cream. And sometimes we eat it too fast either because 1) it’s so delicious, or 2) we need to eat it before it melts. But we pay the price.

But what we sometimes call an ice cream headache is also referred to as “brain freeze” and can happen without the delicious ice cream.

According to the Cleveland Clinic (cited below), “Brain freeze is a brief but intense pain in the front part of your head. It occurs when you eat, drink or breathe something extremely cold…” So it can include breathing in freezing air as well as eating slushies, ice cubes, popsicles, etc.

While we have lots of colloquial names for the pain, the scientific/medical term for ice cream headache is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.

Who is at risk for getting ice cream headaches?

Anyone can get a brain freeze. Children may be more likely to get brain freeze because they may not have learned to slow down when eating something fun like an ice pop.

Some research has shown that sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia is more common in people who get migraine headaches.

What is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia?

An ice cream headache comes on quickly, but it also goes away relatively fast. It’s often gone in a few minutes, tops, and doesn’t need to be treated with medicine.

Brain freeze doesn’t cause other symptoms either – no nausea or sensitivity to light, for example. It’s just temporary pain that occurs “When your body senses sudden, extreme cold in the mouth or throat” and “tries to react and warm up.”

The headache sets in as “Blood vessels throughout the head expand to let extra blood into the area for warmth. That quick change in blood vessel size causes sudden pain.”

Of course, you can prevent the pain caused by doing that thing by avoiding that thing. But who wants to avoid ice cream and other cold treats? Instead, try warming up your mouth and throat by drinking room-temperature water or pressing your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Or just slow down on the ice cream.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Brain Freeze” — Cleveland Clinic