MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Ice cream might be the perfect summer treat, but the delicious desert can come with a mind-numbing side effect.

The scientific name for the brain freeze we can get from eating something cold too fast is called “sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia,” which means pain in your nerve on the roof of your mouth. Why exactly it happens isn’t quite clear, even to neurologists.

“We think it has to do with the body’s reaction to the cold, like a protective mechanism,” said Dr. Yasha Kayan, a neurointerventionalist at Abbott Northwestern. “One of the theories is that there’s extra blood flow to the brain and that increases the pressure in the brain and gives you a headache.”

Dr. Kayan says the mechanism of what happens during a brain freeze may be similar to what migraine sufferers go through. The pain is likely not in the brain, but rather the lining of the brain, or referred pain from a person’s face.

“It’s like when you get pain in another location and because your nerves are complicated, they can transfer the pain and feel like you’re hurting somewhere else,” he said. “It’s kind of like when people have shoulder pain when they’re having a heart attack.”

So, take the advice at Katelyn and Owen Ayer, who had finished their DQ Blizzards moments earlier.

“Drink water or drink milk and slow down.”

Heather Brown

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