Asked by Kathleen Williams, Dothan, Alabama
Why does the cold wind make my head hurt, even when I wear earmuffs?
Living Well Expert
Dr. Jennifer Shu
Children's Medical Group
Thanks for your question. You are describing a phenomenon known as "cold stimulus headache," sometimes called "brain freeze" by children eating ice cream very quickly. It occurs when something cold (such as a food, drink or air) stimulates an area of the head and causes a headache.
To get more information about this occurrence, I interviewed Dr. Mark Brown, an Austin, Texas, physician who is board certified in Otolaryngology, Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Sleep Medicine.
How common are cold stimulus headaches?
The frequency of these headaches is hard to pin down. In limited population studies from Denmark and Taiwan, the lifetime prevalence varies from 15 percent and 41 percent respectively. One new area of interest is in cold water divers, in whom these severe headaches need to be differentiated from "the bends." Also, cold stimulus headaches may be more common in migraine sufferers.
What causes them?
It is thought that stimulation of the trigeminal nerve (the nerve that provides sensation information for most of the face, head, mouth, throat and neck) by cold temperature causes constriction of blood vessels in the brain (somewhat like a migraine) and thus a headache.
How do you treat cold stimulus headaches?
As these headaches are typically very short lived (usually five minutes at the most), there is generally not much to do other than avoidance. It can also be helpful to cover exposed areas of the head and neck when venturing into cold weather. In addition to earmuffs, wear a hat and scarf.
Any other tips?
Eat your ice cream slowly. You can maximize your enjoyment of your guilty pleasure and minimize the likelihood of a nasty headache!
Could stopping the pill be causing my acne?
|Most Viewed||Most Emailed||Top Searches|
CNN Comment Policy: CNN encourages you to add a comment to this discussion. You may not post any unlawful, threatening, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. All comments should be relevant to the topic and remain respectful of other authors and commenters. You are solely responsible for your own comments, the consequences of posting those comments, and the consequences of any reliance by you on the comments of others. By submitting your comment, you hereby give CNN the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your comment(s) and accompanying personal identifying and other information you provide via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity. CNN Privacy Statement.
The information contained on this page does not and is not intended to convey medical advice. CNN is not responsible for any actions or inaction on your part based on the information that is presented here. Please consult a physician or medical professional for personal medical advice or treatment.