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Ice Cream Headache

October 18th, 2005

This is one of those things that many people don’t have a name for, and so different people who have a name for it tend to call it different things. I first heard it described as “ice cream headache” on Roseanne, and years later as “brain freeze” in the movie Shallow Hal. A colleague gave the name “chill brains.” I asked many Japanese people, and all immediately reported that there was no specific name for it in the Japanese language.

According to doctors, this is caused not by chilled blood in the throat traveling behind the eyes, but rather by the contact of cold substances against the roof of the mouth; nerves there signal for the blood vessels in the head to dilate, causing the headache.

So what do you call it?

You really should read the article by Dr. Hulihan, if for no other reason than to see a professor say things like “It would be of interest to determine whether antimigraine drugs that modulate serotonergic pathways have any effect on ice cream headache.”

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  1. Tim Kane
    October 19th, 2005 at 02:24 | #1

    I’ve read that ice cream head aches never occur in the winter. Since I’ve read that, I have yet to experience one. It has something to do with climate.

  2. October 19th, 2005 at 06:08 | #2

    Brain Freeze, but I called it that long before Shallow Hal.

  3. Paul
    October 19th, 2005 at 09:40 | #3

    I call it an ice cream headache, because that’s usually when I get it. However, I don’t know if I’m as susceptible to them as most folks are; I have a habit of chewing up ice cubes and ice chips, so I’ve often got cold stuff in my mouth.

    (Yes, I know it’s said to be a bad habit, but my dentist said it’s not a worry unless I start cracking teeth- and given that I’m one of those genetic freaks who’s never had a cavity, I’m pretty safe with the strength of my teeth.)

    Seattle, WA

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