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Summer woes: brain freeze and dark clothing

Jereme Rauckman

Brain freeze. Most people have had one of these so-called “ice cream headaches,” but how do they happen, and why doesn’t everybody get them?

This week on “Take Care” we talk to Dr. Mark Green, director of the Center for Headache and Pain Medicine and professor of neurology and anesthesiology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Green is quick to point out that the name has been changed to “cold stimulus headache,” since these headaches aren’t specific to ice cream.

“What happens is that something cools the pallet on the top of the mouth, and if it suddenly cools it, you develop activation of certain nerves that refer pain usually to the forehead, and it can be fairly severe, and last several minutes,” said Green.

There have always been tricks to try and get rid of these cold stimulus headaches, like moving your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Green says these tricks might work, but thawing out is the best method.

But not everybody develops the headaches when eating ice cream.

“An important point to remember is that people with migraines, who genetically have them, are more likely to develop a headache when they eat ice cream,” said Green “So it’s that population in particular that’s very likely to develop the problem.”

Cold stimulus headaches are not dangerous either, just irritating and troublesome. While most of them are developed by eating a cold substance, Green has read instances where something else happened entirely.

“There was a case report I found interesting, I believe it was a woman who was an ice skater, and when she would skate over the ice, she developed a headache. So even [breathing in] ice would be sufficient to cool her pallet,” said Green.

Wearing black in the sun

For some reason, wearing black in the sun makes us all hotter. But how does this occur, and why don’t lighter colors make us feel the same way?

“Take Care” talks to meteorologist Jan Null this week on why wearing black gives people this effect. Null has been a lead forecaster with the National Weather Service, an adjunct professor of meteorology at San Francisco State University, and as a certified consulting meteorologist he provides expert testimony on weather and climate data for litigation, insurance, and research.


“Darker colors are more absorbent of light, and light is the sun’s energy, and that in fact does warm us,” said Null.

While darker colors absorb the light energy, why is it that lighter colors don’t do the same?

“Lighter colors have what meteorologists call a ‘higher albedo,’ they reflect more of the light’s energy, so they are in fact cooler,” said Null.