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Why do I get a headache when I eat ice cream?

Sometimes referred to as a "brain freeze," the National Headache Foundation reports that some people may experience brief, intense pain in the throat, head, or face, after eating a cold food or beverage if comes in contact with the nerves at the back of the throat, roof of the mouth or palate. The abrupt, cold temperature causes sensitive nerves at the back of the throat to signal blood vessels to dilate, resulting in sharp, throbbing pain. Luckily the pain disappears in a few minutes. However, people who suffer from migraine headaches may be particularly susceptible to cold-stimulus headaches. Researchers think this is because they have blood vessels that tend to dilate more easily. To prevent discomfort, eat slowly, and try to keep the ice cream towards the front of your mouth, then swallow after it has warmed. For more info from the Headache Foundation: Call: 1-888-NHF-5552 or email

Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D., Former Nutritional Sciences Specialist, University of Missouri-Columbia

University of Missouri Extension Site Administrator: 

Last updated:06/17/2015
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