What causes a brain freeze? Tampa doctor explains the frigid phenomenon and how to stop it

Everyone’s experienced a brain freeze at some point, especially as the temperatures soar in the summer. But have you ever wondered what causes the sensation? 

"What you’re getting is an abrupt change in temperature," said Dr. Jean Delbrune, a neuro-interventional radiologist with Advent Health

Dr. Delbrune is an expert on the brain and the brain freeze.

"Your brain does not feel the pain, what you feel is the blood vessels that are expanding and that causes the pain. But since it’s localized to that area, most people think it is a brain freeze," Dr. Delbrune said.

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He says the sudden cold triggers the body to try and warm the area back up. 

Child eating popsicle

"In the case of an ice cream headache, your body tries to warm up the head by bringing blood into the head, which causes that increased sensation of pain you get. 

If you've had one, you know that they typically go away in a matter of moments but there are some tricks to speed up the process.

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"You just put your thumb on the roof of your mouth, and it should go away," said Amber Gilkes, general manager at The Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops in Hyde Park. 

Woman with thumb in mouth

You can also use your tongue, and press it to the roof of your mouth. 

"Your tongue is like a heat sync, it quickly delivers heat to the area so that can help break that brain freeze cycle," said Dr. Delbrune. 

And there you have it, the cold hard truth about brain freezes.