Can eating ice cream make you scream?

Summary: Study investigates how exposure to cold stimuli, such as eating ice cream or drinking an icy drink, can cause headaches.

Source: International Headache Society

As opposed to making you happy, eating ice cream may cause you a headache. Cephalalgia, the official journal of the International Headache Society, published the article entitled “Prevalence and characteristics of headache attributed to ingestion or inhalation of a cold stimulus (HICS): A cross-sectional study”, by Torsten Kraya and colleagues from the Department of Neurology, at Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, and St. Georg Hospital, Leipzig, Germany.

The authors investigated 618 adults, students and staff from the university, who filled a questionnaire about headaches. Half of the population had a headache after the ingestion of a cold stimulus, regardless of having a diagnosis of migraine or tension-type headache.

The pain was referred to as moderate, lasted less than 30 seconds and occurred in frontal and temporal areas in most individuals. Associated symptoms happened in half of the headaches (tearing, seeing flashing light dots, eye redness, and running nose).

This shows a woman eating an ice cream
Half of the population had a headache after the ingestion of a cold stimulus, regardless of having a diagnosis of migraine or tension-type headache.The image is in the public domain.

The pleasure of eating ice cream or drinking a cold drink may be decreased by a painful headache.

About this neuroscience research article

Source:
International Headache Society
Media Contacts:
Torsten Kraya – International Headache Society
Image Source:
The image is in the public domain.

Original Research: Closed access
“Prevalence and characteristics of headache attributed to ingestion or inhalation of a cold stimulus (HICS): A cross-sectional study”. Torsten Kraya et al.
Cephalalgia doi:10.1177/0333102419884938.

Abstract

Prevalence and characteristics of headache attributed to ingestion or inhalation of a cold stimulus (HICS): A cross-sectional study

Background
Headache attributed to ingestion or inhalation of a cold stimulus (HICS), colloquially called ice-cream headache, is a common form of a primary headache in adults and children. However, previous studies on adults are limited due to the small number of patients. Furthermore, most of the subjects in previous studies had a history of other primary headaches.

Methods
Biographic data, clinical criteria of HICS and prevalence of primary headache were collected by a standardized questionnaire. A total of 1213 questionnaires were distributed; the return rate was 51.9% (n = 629); 618 questionnaires could be analyzed.

Results
In a cohort of 618 people aged between 17–63 years (females: n = 426, 68.9%), the prevalence of HICS was 51.3% (317 out of 618). There was no difference between men and women (51.3% vs. 51.6%). The duration of HICS was shorter than 30 sec in 92.7%. In the HICS group, localization of the pain was occipital in 17%. Trigemino-autonomic symptoms occurred in 22%, and visual phenomena (e.g. flickering lights, spots or lines) were reported by 18% of the HICS group. The pain intensity, but not the prevalence of HICS, was higher when tension-type headache and migraine or both were present as co-morbid primary headaches (Numeric Rating Scale (NRS) 4.58 and 6.54, p = 0.006). There was no higher risk of participants with migraine getting HICS than for those who did not have migraine (odds ratio = 1.17, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.75–1.83; p = 0.496).

Conclusion

The results of this study modified the current criteria for HICS in the ICHD-3 regarding duration and localization. In addition, accompanying symptoms in about one fifth of the participants are not mentioned in the ICHD-3. Neither migraine nor tension-type headache seems to be a risk factor for HICS. However, accompanying symptoms in HICS are more frequent in subjects with another primary headache than in those without such a headache.

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