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If You Like Ice Cream This One's For You
Did you ever eat ice cream or drink a very cold soda too fast and get a sudden blinding headache? It's not pleasant, I assure you, because it happens to me every so often. According to a study in BMJ by Maya and Janusz Kaczorowski, published in the December 21-28, 2002 issue, called "Ice cream evoked headaches (ICE-H) study: randomized trial of accelerated versus cautious ice cream eating regimen," you should try eating your ice cream or other cold food slower, more cautiously, if you have this problem.
Participants in their study were all middle school children in Canada, which was probably their biggest mistake given the tendency for kids to fool around. Several other weak points were notable in this trial, although the conclusions are probably okay. For example, the temperature of the ice cream wasn't formally regulated, the incidence and duration of headaches depended on self reporting by these youngsters, there was no blinding utilized, and no effort was made to ascertain whether the participants had any specific contributing etiology such as chronic sinusitis.
In spite of these defects, the evidence seems fairly straight forward that more than twice the percentage of participants who ate their ice cream rapidly developed headache as compared to the cautious ones. Of 73 students in the fast eating group, twenty (27%) developed headaches, while only nine (13%) of 72 students in the slow eating group had headaches. Evidently, eating your ice cream a bit slower will help, but it still can happen. It would seem to me that it might be a good idea for anyone who develops symptoms of headache, fast or slow eating, might be well advised to see an ear, nose, and throat doctor anyway, unless they know already that they have sinusitis or some other causative condition.
Fortunately, most of these headaches don't last too long. In this study, 59% lasted less than 10 seconds. Also of interest is the observation that about 79% of the participants claimed to have lifetime prevalence of ice cream headache. This was a good deal higher than anticipated, and suggests to me that sinusitis, or some other etiology was playing a role.
The authors were also interested in investigating the generally accepted concept that cold stimulus headaches only occur during hot weather. For this reason the study was carried out during the winter. Their findings contradicted this idea. Even some slow eating students developed headaches during the winter.
Isn't it a shame that there always seems to be a catch to indulging in the good things in life? Hopefully, we'll all be allowed to enjoy such delicacies as ice cream, sweets, and the like in the afterlife.
My nose gets stuffed,
My cheeks feel puffed,
And all I do is blow.
My head gets achy,
My hands get shaky,
Now my nose begins to flow.
Then my sinuses get cold,
I'm convinced I have a cold,
And surely, it must be so.
But when all the misery passes over,
The joys of that plate, white like the Cliffs of Dover,
Were obviously worth the pain, you know.
Cartoons and Poems following each article are created and copyrighted by Dr. Ackerman and cannot be copied or reproduced without his permission.
Copyright © 2009 by Marvin Ackerman, M.D.
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