Your brain is one of the hardest-working parts of your body. Most of the time you don’t realize how many different things your brain is doing: it tells your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, your eyes to blink, your mouth to swallow—and much more. God designed your amazing brain to work with the rest of your body to keep you healthy in sometimes surprising ways!
Brrrr . . . Brain Freeze!
You’re eating ice cream when suddenly your head feels like it’s ready to explode and you stop to catch your breath. You have brain freeze! It happens when something very cold touches the roof of your mouth. Why is that so painful?
Scientists say that the brain is sensitive to temperature. When it suddenly feels cold, it tells your body to rush warm blood to the cold spot. That sudden extra blood flow stretches the artery the blood runs through, giving you a headache.
Brain freeze usually goes away in a minute or two. To make it stop faster, drink a glass of warm water. That tells your brain that everything’s OK again.
Almost everybody gets the hiccups now and then. There’s a muscle in your chest just below your lungs called the diaphragm. When it gets irritated, your brain tells it to jump—just like you would jump if someone poked you with a stick. When your diaphragm jumps, it sucks air down your throat really fast. When it goes past your vocal chords, that air makes a hiccupping noise.
Hiccups usually go away by themselves. But if you can’t get rid of them, try one of these cures. Which one works best for you?
- Pinch your nose closed. Then take a deep breath and hold it as long as you can.
- Drink some water using the far side of a glass.
- Bite on a lemon slice.
- Stick out your tongue and pull on it with your fingers.
A sneeze starts when something irritates your nose, causing the part of your brain that controls sneezes to leap into action. Its job is to get things that aren’t supposed to be in your nose and throat out of there—FAST! Without even trying, you take a deep breath. Your sneeze controller makes the muscles in your chest and throat push the air out really fast. That clears dust or other stuff out of your nose and throat.
In ancient times, some people believed that when someone sneezed, his soul could escape through his nose. Others believed that evil spirits could enter when people sneezed. That’s why people all over the world say nice things to each other when they sneeze. Here people might say, “God bless you.” A Hindu might say, “Live well.” In China, people say, “May you live 100 years.”
A Famous Sneeze
One of the earliest copyrighted films ever made was a film of a sneeze! In 1894 William Dickson used a machine called a kinetograph, invented by Thomas Edison, to film a man sneezing. It was amazing to people who had never seen moving pictures before. You can watch this very short, very old movie here.
The Mystery of Yawning
Being tired, bored, or nervous can make you yawn. But exactly why people yawn is still a mystery. Some scientists think we do it to get more oxygen to our brain or to cool our brain. Others think we do it to show sympathy for other people who are tired.
Lots of people yawn when they see or hear someone else yawning—or even when they read about yawning. Are you yawning yet? Try this: next time your family is having dinner or watching TV, fake a yawn—and see if anyone else yawns!
- A man named Charles Osborne who lived in Anthon, Iowa, started hiccupping in 1922 when he was butchering a pig. He kept on hiccupping for the next 68 years! The year before he died the hiccups finally went away.
- Sneezes can come out of your nose at 100 miles (150 km) per hour! That’s why it’s important to cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze. If you don’t, you spread germs really fast and far.
- The scientific name for “brain freeze” might make your brain hurt when you try to pronounce it: it’s “sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.”
- Unborn babies can yawn, hiccup, and suck their thumbs!
Read More About It
For more information about your busy brain, visit a bookstore or library to get the book What Makes You Cough, Sneeze, Burp, Hiccup, Blink, Yawn, Sweat, and Shiver?by Jean Stangl.
About the Author
Sandy Swartzentruber serves as the resource coordinator for Faith Formation Ministries and is a member of Sherman Street CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.