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Stop the Ouch! Brain Freeze Explained

The Cause of 'Brain Freeze' and How To Get Rid of It!

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Spring has well and truly landed in Sydney and there's a lot to look forward to, including all of those delicious warm weather treats you've been missing all winter long. Once the weather begins to warm up most of us can be easily tempted by a nice big ice cream cone, a big bowl of frozen yogurt or a long, tall, cool milkshake. And a cold soft-drink - or the occasional very cold beer or frozen frothy cocktail - is a must when the sun comes back out to play.


However wonderful all of these treats are however they can have a rather painful downside; brain freeze. That terrible feeling when, for a minute or so, your icy indulgence results in a headache so intense that it really does feel like your brain froze. But what is it that causes this pain and what can you do to prevent it?

What Causes Brain Freeze in the First Place?
Brain freeze - that does, by the way, have a real scientific name, sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia - is, in very basic terms, a reaction between the blood vessels in the roof of your mouth and your brain. You see your mouth is mouth is highly vascularised, meaning that there are an awful lot of blood vessels at work in there. Among them, at the back of the throat, are two very important ones; the internal carotid artery, which is what gets blood to your brain, and the anterior cerebral artery, which sits right where your brain tissue starts.

So, basically, it's an area that the brain feels it is very important to protect. Introduce a sudden rush of cold and sometimes the brain literally thinks you are going to freeze to death. As a protective measure those arteries then contract very quickly, causing that sudden, stabbing pain that is so very unpleasant. Within a minute or so the brain does realise its mistake and everything goes back to normal, but boy does it hurt until then.

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Effective Ways to Stop Brain Freeze
There are several things you can try in order to save yourself from unnecessary suffering when enjoying cold treats:

  1. Eat or drink cold items slowly. Yes that frozen margarita looks amazing but you don't have to guzzle it all down in three gulps.
  2. Take smaller bites/sips and let the food/drink warm a little in your mouth before you swallow it.
  3. Nix the straw. Yes, your milkshake came with a stripy straw that's very cute and stuff but where possible avoid using it. Drinking an ice cold milkshake through a straw delivers the cold right to the back of your throat instantly, just where you don't want it to go.
  4. If you do find yourself in the throes of a brain freeze, press your tongue against the roof of your mouth to warm things back up more quickly.
  5. Another way to speed up your 'recovery' from a brain freeze is to cup your hands over your nose and mouth and breathe into the 'cup', the same way as you might do on a very cold morning.
  6. Give up all frozen drinks, treats and desserts and drink lattes and eat beef stew all spring and summer long (just kidding, we know that's a bit nuts)

The #EmergencyDentist Says:

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Bring on the good weather and the brain freezes! We recommend TIP 4.


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