Why can cold drinks give us a headache?


We may finally have an explanation for this phenomenon, known variously as ice-cream headache, brain freeze, cold-stimulus headache and, more officially, sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. A team of researchers led by Harvard Medical School’s Dr Jorge Serrador asked 13 brave volunteers to sip ice water through a straw aimed directly at the roof of the mouth, while transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasound captured the fl ow of blood in their brains. In 2012, the team published the results: just before the headache hits, blood rushes through the anterior cerebral artery in the brain. The evidence isn’t conclusive, but it’s likely we experience this increased pressure as headache pain. The researchers suspect that cold food or drink may briefly cool the blood, and the increased flow is the body’s way of warming things up again to keep the brain at an optimal temperature.

Answered by Tom Harris.