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Name: fath
Status: N/A
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Around 1993

What causes an "ice cream headache"? Are they dangerous? What would happen if I induced an ice cream headache when I had a regular headache?

This is really a neat question. I am certainly no expert on headaches, but it has a lot to do blood circulation in the sinuses and around and within the brain. Why do some people get them easily and other seem resistant? The cold might restrict blood flow which is the basis for the problem. An Ice cream headache can be turned "on" or "off" by adjusting the rate of consumption, Slurpees work best, so really cold stuff enhances the effect. Are there stages: cold sensation, lingering headache, subsiding headache, warming, etc? Does the cold actually create similar headache "conditions" or does the brain confused cause it cannot directly feel pain? The difference in people is probably due to differences in arteriole branching and general circulation. In my experience smokers get worse headaches than nonsmokers of the same age. Do you find a similar trend? I am trying to stimulate discussion!

Lou Harnisch

Yes, insufficient blood flow to the head does play a large role in headaches. The brain itself does not have sensory neurons, so it does not directly feel pain, like Lou Harnisch explained. But the muscles of the head are very sensitive to changes in blood flow, blood pressure, nutritional variations, temperature, and tension caused by stress. The pain comes from abnormal contraction of these head muscles. These contractions, in turn, can be triggered by insufficient blood flow, excessive blood pressure, cold, and tension build up (hence the term "tension" headache). So, in our consideration of why ice cream might cause a headache, several factors might all come into play: the decrease in blood flow as Lou Harnisch suggested; the constrictive response to cold of the muscles of the mouth, neck, and ultimately head; the increase in blood pressure do to stimulation of digestion; the sharp increase in blood sugar and insulin levels in response to the sugary treat; and maybe even the guilt one feels for eating an ice cream cone (NO! That could not possibly be a reason!). I have even read one medical authority who believes that the headache could be triggered by an allergic reaction to milk proteins, and indeed, many people have allergies to milk. Just a health note. If any of the following symptoms accompany a headache, please consult with your doctor ASAP: blurred vision, sensitivity to light, pressure behind the eyes relieved by vomiting, food allergies, pressure in the facial sinus area, heart pounding, visual color changes, feeling as though your head will explode, and unbearable throbbing. Do not just take an aspirin. Something more serious may be causing the headache.


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