Ice cream headaches



What is ice cream headache?

Ice cream headaches are brief, stabbing headaches that can happen when you eat, drink or inhale something cold. Digging into an ice cream cone is a common trigger, but eating or drinking other frosty items, such as ice pops and slushy frozen drinks, can have the same “brain-freeze” effect.

Officially known as cold stimulus headaches, they can also occur when you suddenly expose your unprotected head to cold temperatures, like diving into cold water.

But there’s good news. Most ice cream headaches are gone as quickly as they develop.

How common is ice cream headache?

Cold-stimulus pain is common, occurring in 30% to 40% of people who don’t usually have headaches. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of ice cream headache?

The common symptoms of ice cream headache are:

  • Sharp, stabbing pain in the forehead
  • Pain that peaks about 20 to 60 seconds after it begins and goes away in about the same time
  • Pain that rarely lasts longer than five minutes

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

Because ice cream headaches go away on their own shortly after they start, there’s no need to see a doctor.


What causes ice cream headache?

The cause is debated, but most experts believe it starts when a cold substance touches the roof of the mouth or the back of the throat and causes small blood vessels in those areas to constrict and then rapidly dilate. Pain receptors near the blood vessels sense the discomfort and send the message along tiny nerve fibers to a larger nerve (the trigeminal nerve), which forwards it to the brain. The trigeminal nerve also carries pain signals from the face. The brain reads the cold-stimulus sensations as coming from the head rather than the mouth — a phenomenon called referred pain.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for ice cream headache?

Ice cream headaches can affect anyone. But you may be more susceptible to ice cream headaches or have more-severe ice cream headaches if you’re prone to migraines.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is ice cream headache diagnosed?

Because ice cream headaches go away on their own shortly after they start, there’s no need to see a doctor.

How is ice cream headache treated?

Ice cream headaches don’t need treatment. Typically, the pain quickly disappears after the cold food or drink is swallowed.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage ice cream headache?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you prevent ice cream headache:

To help prevent ice cream headaches, try eating cold foods and drinking cold beverages slowly. The best way to avoid getting an ice cream headache is to avoid the cold food or drinks that cause them.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.



Review Date: November 13, 2017 | Last Modified: November 14, 2017

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