Have you ever experienced nasty effects in your head after taking something cold? Remember the last time you sunk your teeth into a cone of ice cream. And it seemed like you blanked out of existence for a minute or two? Yes, that is a brain freeze and most of us have experienced it before. This is also known as an ice cream headache. It causes short-term but intense pain. This pain is at the sides of the head after you start eating your favorite vanilla ice cream.
But can you die from a brain freeze?
Well, the answer to that question is that yes, it is possible. Yet, it is almost impossible for it to actually happen. The headache that you feel after guzzling your iced jar of lemonade can feel like death. But relax, you are not going to breathe your last from a brain freeze.
What Exactly Is A Brain Freeze?
It is also called a cold-stimulus headache or an ice cream headache. A brain freeze can be best defined as a short-term pain of a headache. This type of headache often results from the swift consumption of cold or frozen foods. These include regular snacks like ice creams or popsicles. We are often excited to enjoy our favorite chocolate ice creams. So we always go straight into biting into it. This leads to a brain freeze.
The headache or resultant pain is as a result of the cold substance hitting the roof of the mouth. This is also referred to as the palate. Physiologists believe that it is this cold stimulation of the palate that acts as trigger. The body responds to the cold stimulus. This it does by constricting and expanding the blood vessels. This causes the sensation of pain all the way from the roof of the mouth itself straight to the head. A brain freeze is not the same with pain arising from problems with the teeth. This is because a brain freeze is not a dental condition.
There is quick cooling and reheating of the blood vessels in the sinuses. This causes constriction and dilation of the blood vessels. Sinuses are cavity-like structures inside the head. In the roof of the mouth, nerve endings responsible for detecting pain become active. These receptors send signals to the brain. In the brain, the interpretation is that of pain. It is that pain that often leaves you in tears or severe discomfort. The nerve responsible for taking the message to the brain is the trigeminal nerve. This nerve is one of the most important nerves in the facial region. It is the same nerve that detects any form of pain stimulus in the facial area.
A brain freeze can have a duration of a mere couple of seconds to a few minutes.That is one explanation given above. There is also another theory explaining a brain freeze. This is the anterior cerebral theory. This theory gets its name from one of the blood vessels. Here, it is the one that supplies the brain tissue with oxygen-rich blood. In this theory, the thinking is that there is a rise in the amount of blood. This rise reaches the brain via the anterior cerebral artery. This is what triggers the pain sensation. It is a defense mechanism for the brain. It is in response to the rapid constriction and dilation of the blood vessel.
Ways That One Can Die From A Brain Freeze
In answering the question above, this was hinted at. It is actually within the realm of possibility for one to die from a brain freeze. Well, even though that is almost impossible, death can result from a brain freeze. This is in these few conditions:
- You have to consume something so cold that all the blood vessels in your mouth will freeze in an instant. This is going to stop all the blood circulation into your brain and that is going to lead to death. In such a situation, the pain will be unbearable. You will slip into a coma-like situation almost immediately. But again, we all know that the temperature of ice cream and other cold foods is not near that. What we eat is not even near strong enough to turn saliva into ice crystals not to talk of the blood vessels.
- The item you are eating has to be so cold that it can immediately shut down the nervous system. If this happens, then the cardiovascular system collapses. You die of a combination of shock and suffocation. This is because the lungs and heart are going to stop functioning. These organs and systems depend on a functional nervous system to keep working. That can be in that very unlikely situation where you swallow something so cold. Something so cold it shuts down the nervous system, this can be the result. Once again, nothing cold that humans consume can trigger this fatal reaction.
How Come One Cannot Die From A Brain Freeze?
A detailed explanation of how brain freezes occur is above. The next thing is how it is impossible for you to die from taking a bite of your avocado-flavored ice cream.
It is impossible for you to die from a brain freeze. This is because the body itself has a series of mechanisms that it employs to defend itself. When the temperature falls as in the case of the roof of the mouth in contact with ice cream, the body responds. The body temperature increases almost immediately in that region. The blood vessels warm up almost immediately. But regulation of temperature is not the only way by which the body reacts. All these ensure that eating ice cream or a popsicle is not tantamount to committing suicide.
The nervous system also comes into play whenever it detects that the body is about to enter overdrive. If the brain senses real danger, it can shut down the entire body. This is temporary. This is medical terms is a syncope but regular people like you and I know it as fainting. When the person faints, the body has the time to recover as the temperature stabilizes. These inbuilt protective mechanisms of the body are useful. They are the main reasons why you will never die from a brain freeze. Although when experiencing a brain freeze you actually feel like dying. The reality is that you will not. So, you can eat that ice cream in peace with no worries at all. You can see the brain freeze as the price to pay for enjoying your favorite snack.
Interesting Things About Brain Freeze
- Even though brain freeze is often used in relation to human beings, not only humans suffer from it. The same sensation is in other animals too.
- It will interest you to know that the concept of an ‘ice cream headache’ has actually been in use since the late 1930s. So, it is not exactly a new concept to society.
- You can avoid a brain freeze by taking your ice cream or any other cold or frozen delicacy you want to enjoy with no rush. By consuming it this way, your body has time to adjust and adapt to the changes in temperature. There is another way by which you can prevent it. It is for you to breathe through your nose, this will assist in raising the temperature inside your mouth. Another method is to put your tongue on our palate or drink something warm.
- There is actually a medical term for a brain freeze. It has a name in medical circles. Sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia is the medical term it has as its appellation. No surprise should stem from the fact that it is quite a mouthful. That is the way of the medical community. The name is actually coined in reference to the structures of the face and head. These structures form part of the mechanism of a brain freeze.
- Research has suggested something interesting. People suffering from migraines are more prone to developing brain freezes. So, if you belong to this category, you might want to be careful with the way you bite into frozen foods.
- Scientists have reached a conclusion that in the real terms of it, a brain freeze is actually a type of headache. But this is a type of headache that has a very rapid onset and a swift rate of resolution.
- Although it is a brain freeze, it is actually not the freezing of your brain tissue. In fact, the brain is not cold in anyway even if you take the coldest ice cream or milkshake on the planet. As a matter of fact, the brain itself cannot feel pain. Detection of the sensation of pain is by receptors and this is then interpreted by the brain. The headache is a result of the sudden change in temperature. People perceive the sensation as if their brain is freezing hence the name ‘brain freeze’.