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Brain-freeze Headache in Cold Water

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba Discussions' started by Brian Huff, Oct 13, 2019.

  1. Brian Huff

    Brian Huff Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: North Carolina
    So far, I've only done quarry diving, only 14 dives in, still practicing/learning.

    Our local quarry thermocline is 30'ish feet where it drops down to about 68F, then another few degrees around 42 ft.

    When I hit about 45 ft I get a quick headache, it feels like the brain-freeze you get when you eat ice cream too quickly.

    I'll ascend to 30 ft and I'm fine again.

    I have not used a full hood yet, just a 3mm do-rag style head cover, however, the freeze seems to hit my face more than any other place. I'm not too cold in the rest of my body, even in a 3mm suit.

    I hit about 45, then my face gets a quick hit of cold and the brain-freeze headache hits right away.

    Anyone else experience something similar?
  2. The Chairman

    The Chairman Chairman of the Board

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Cave Country!
    I've endured this during a mini season. It's horrible, but I soon got used to it. I think a hood is a way to avoid it.
    Blueringocto_73 likes this.
  3. Marie13

    Marie13 Great Lakes Mermaid ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Great Lakes
    Get a hood! It really does help. I’ve only dived without a hood several times.
    Blueringocto_73 likes this.
  4. matt86

    matt86 Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Wisconsin
    A hood helps, but when the water is really cold, (mid 30's) I still get it pretty bad for the first few minutes.
    Blueringocto_73 likes this.
  5. TMHeimer

    TMHeimer Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Dartmouth,NS,Canada(Eastern Passage-Atlantic)
    I've dived wet in a lot colder water but always use my hood (if it's warm enough not to, I still use it to help keep water from going DEEP into my ears). My hood meets my mask skirting, so the only thing really exposed to water is around my lips.
    Maybe this is why though I've been cold on many occasions, never one of those brain freezes.
    Then again, maybe it's just in your head.....(had to say that).
    BenjaminF, Sh0rtBus and Brian Huff like this.
  6. Ayisha

    Ayisha DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Toronto, Canada
    A hood will really help. Around here, thermoclines give me a face freeze with a hood below about 45F/7C or so, but I get used to it after the initial shock.

    If you have to do a mask re and re (like in a course) at 38-40F/3-4C, I've definitely had an icecream headache while the mask is off, resolving shortly after.

    Blowing an SMB with cold numb lips can be comical as the gas escapes past the mouthpiece. If you put the SMB in the corner of your mouth, it works much better.

    The joys of cold water. Wearing a well-fitting hood and well-fitting full suit and keeping your core and extremities warm (gloves & neoprene socks) should help.
  7. Ben_3

    Ben_3 Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Canada
    I would go for a good hood to start off with in those temps..
  8. Marie13

    Marie13 Great Lakes Mermaid ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Great Lakes
    Waterproof brand hoods are all I’ll use.
    DavidFL likes this.
  9. Eksilbergenseren

    Eksilbergenseren Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Norway
    The face is normally very robust, but your forehead is not. Make sure to select a hood that does not leave a gap between the hood and the mask. For really cold water finding the right hood is almost more important than the rest of the thermal protection. Brand recommendations from fellow divers are great, but the hood must fit your head, and your mask. Ideally, he mask should go ontop of the mask seal.

    A cold forehead will, in addition to beeing uncomfortable, also increas the chance of having problems equalizing.

    I learned this the hard way, dooing my open water certification in water just above freezing. 2-3 deg c. The ice-cream headache Ayisha describes above is more like a nail driven into your forehead ;-)
    Ayisha likes this.
  10. almostDIR

    almostDIR Barracuda

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Finland
    I use a 5mm full hood for quarry diving in summer if the temp at bottom is around 10deg. Celcius and if it is lower temp for extended periods like 4 or 5 degrees C them I will use my 10mm hood. Will get the cold headache easily so the 10mm hood is in regular use.
    If the water temp is lower than 4C then I may use the lip protector on the regulator mouthpiece as well. Lip freezing tends to be a problem for me if the water temp is around 2 Celcius or so but 4 C is normally fine without the protector.

    The full hood has the added benefit of reducing bubble noise so I use one even in pool
    Marie13 likes this.

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