The truth about 'brain freeze'

Leave it to medical scientists to take all the fun out of a familiar phenomenon.

The correct (but boring) term is “cold-stimulus headache,” according to Dr. Amaal Starling, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic. But she's talking about brain freeze.

In a “Mayo Clinic Minute” from the Mayo Clinic News Network, Starling explains the reason for that blast of pain when you sip a cold slushy too fast.

It’s all about the blood vessels.

“There are blood vessels that are inside the mouth and in the back of the throat,” Starling said. “And when they are rapidly exposed to something very cold, they constrict or become smaller. And then they become larger. And when those blood vessels rapidly change size like that, it activates the pain receptors.”

Happily, Starling offers a simple preventative measure: 1. Use a smaller straw. 2. Drink slowly.

If you get a brain freeze, no worries. It hurts, but it's in no way dangerous, Starling assures us.