Intended for healthcare professionals


Ice cream headache

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 10 May 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1364

No need for abstinence

  1. Joseph Hulihan, Assistant professora
  1. a Department of Neurology, Temple University Health Sciences Center, 3401 N Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19140, USA

    All sorts of things can cause headache. For migraineurs, attacks can be provoked by chocolate, cheese, cured meats, or non-food such as stress or changes in sleep habits. Headaches can herald serious neurological disease. Some people have a benign type of headache provoked by coughing or, rarely, by coitus. Many people feel that headaches are caused by eye strain or chronic sinus problems, although probably they are not.

    The most common cause of head pain is ice cream, occurring in one third of a randomly selected population.1 It occurs regardless of whether someone suffers from other types of headache. Children know all about ice cream headache, although I have found that they know it best by the descriptive term “brain freeze.”

    The pain begins a few seconds …

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