Editor’s Note: Cold, Hard Facts About Ice Cream Headaches

Brain freeze won’t kill you, but not eating ice cream just might
Minnesota Monthly editor Reed Fischer holding a dish of ice cream Izzy's Ice Cream.
Minnesota Monthly editor Reed Fischer. Photo by Casie Beldo.

July is national ice cream month, which also means the dreaded National Ice Cream Brain Freeze Month is upon us.

These paroxysms of throbbing temples, smarting eye sockets, and tingling jaws we endure after hoovering some Izzy’s Cotton Candy ice cream (pictured here with a mini scoop of Raspberry Sorbet) are officially known within the medical community as cold-stimulus headaches. Similar symptoms may occur when your head is suddenly exposed to any rapid drop in temperature. (Managers of successful softball teams prone to ice-bucket sneak attacks, you’ve been warned.)

But there is hope. While your brain will feel like it has been stabbed with a six-foot icicle sword for an interminable 90 seconds—and if you’re migraine-prone, this headache could reach a more-prolonged, deeper freeze—this condition is 100 percent not life-threatening.

According to a lengthy entry on Mayo Clinic’s website, there is no need to even seek medical help. In the “Prevention” section, it is noted, “The best way to avoid getting ice cream headaches is to avoid the cold food or drinks or exposure to cold that causes them.” That’s not going to happen. Instead, follow these simple steps: Upon onset of symptoms, quickly pinch your nose shut with your thumb and index finger, close your mouth, and blow abruptly through your nose. Works like a charm.

Know the risks and scoop as safely as you can, friends.

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