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Is Brain Freeze Dangerous: Should We Be Chill About it?

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Jun 04, 2021

Is Brain Freeze Dangerous: Should We Be Chill About it?

Whether you are on Team Chocolate, Team Vanilla, or even Team Mint Chip, we all have our favorite flavor of ice cream. Frozen treats and icy drinks are tasty desserts and help us cool down on hot days. However, there are times when chilling out can get to our heads– literally. Brain freeze is a common phenomenon, but what is it really? Is brain freeze dangerous or just an annoyance? Learn more about it here.

is brain freeze dangerous

What is Brain Freeze?

Many of us have experienced brain freeze before we even knew the term for it. Brain freeze is also known by other names, including “ice cream headache,’ “cold-stimulus headache,’ “cold neuralgia,’ and “sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.’

The sensation is described as an intense, sharp, or throbbing headache around the forehead and temples that is caused by eating or drinking something cold. The feeling lasts for about a minute or so then fades away.

The exact mechanism and reason for a brain freeze are not completely understood. However, most scientists believe that nerves in the palate of the mouth are sensitive to temperature changes.

But is brain freeze dangerous? Brain freeze commonly happens when someone drinks or eats something very cold and very quickly. The reflex can be compared to how we cough or gag if we eat something too fast or do not chew it enough. Essentially, it is a way for our body to tell us to slow down.

Is Brain Freeze Dangerous?

Is brain freeze dangerous? Thankfully, brain freeze is not dangerous. Treatment is not necessary because the sensation goes away after a minute or so after you stop eating or drinking. In general, most headaches are not dangerous but can indicate an underlying condition.

If you experience a headache that lasts longer than usual or even after taking a break from cold drinks and food, there may be an underlying problem. Persistent headaches or migraines can be triggered by stress, fever, abnormal sleep patterns, and even strong lights and smells.

How to Stop Headaches Immediately: 5 Things to Remember

How to Cure Brain Freeze

Is brain freeze dangerous? If you are currently experiencing brain freeze, it will likely pass by the time you get to the end of this article. There is no need to worry about brain freeze unless it lasts more than several minutes or gets worse even after you stop eating or drinking.

Drinking something warm or holding your tongue against the roof of your mouth can help make symptoms pass faster. The best way to avoid brain freeze is to take smaller sips and bites of cold food. Eating slowly and gradually allows the food to warm up in the mouth. 

There are many benefits to eating and drinking slowly. Firstly, eating slowly helps us practice mindful eating. This allows us to appreciate our food more and can help control cravings and emotional eating.

Secondly, thoroughly chewing and gradually eating helps prevent indigestion and gassiness. Lastly, eating slowly reduces the risk of choking and is a good habit to teach children at an early age.

In addition, avoid putting cold food or drink against the roof of your mouth. The palate area is largely responsible for the sensation of brain freeze. The cheek and tongue are safer. However, if you have sensitive teeth it may cause some pain or irritation.

Key Takeaways

Is brain freeze dangerous? In summary, brain freeze is not dangerous. It is merely a minor inconvenience and summertime rite of passage for many of us. However, a brain freeze can be mistaken for other types of headaches or migraines.

If triggers aside from cold food and drinks cause your headaches or last longer than a minute or two, it may be a sign of something more serious. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about painful or frequent headaches.

Learn more about Headaches and Migraines here. 


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

Written by

Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


Updated Jun 04, 2021

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