This article was medically reviewed by Carolyn Swenson, MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and member of the Prevention Medical Review Board, on July 3, 2019.
You’re doing your thing, minding your own business, and all of a sudden, it feels like someone injected your skin with whatever comes in those little hand-warming gel packets.
Hot flashes are sudden feelings of warmth or intense heat that you usually experience around your face, neck, and chest. They’re not exactly fun to deal with, since they can cause deep breathing, an elevated heart rate, flushed skin, and—when they pass—a sweat-stained shirt and a case of the chills.
While it’s true that hot flashes are usually associated with menopause and perimenopause, women (and men) of any age can experience them, says Beth Battaglino, RN, CEO and women’s health expert with the nonprofit HealthyWomen. “Hot flashes can strike at any time and for a lot of different reasons,” she explains.
But it’s important to note that experiencing one doesn’t necessarily mean anything scary is going on, says Alexandra Sowa, MD, founder of SoWell Health, a private practice focused on disease prevention through nutrition, fitness, and medicine. “It’s not clear why some people experience them and some don’t, but for many it’s a benign or transient condition,” she explains.
If you feel like you’re having hot flashes on a consistent basis, Dr. Sowa recommends jotting down some notes in your phone or on a pad of paper every time you experience one. “Write down the time of day and what you were doing before they started,” Dr. Sowa suggests.
“Keeping that kind of diary may help you make associations or identify your triggers—things such as red wine or stress,” adds Lynn Simpson, MD, a gynecologist at Cleveland Clinic. This information could also help your doctor figure out the underlying cause of your hot flashes, she says.
So, what causes hot flashes, exactly?
There are a number of reasons you could be experiencing hot flashes. Here are the most common triggers—and what to do about them.
- 2. Prescription medications
- 4. Excess weight
- 5. Food allergies or sensitivities
- 6. Anxiety
- 7. Medical conditions
- What Is a Hot Flash?
- Why Do We Heat Up at Night?
- What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Menopause?
- For More Information on Menopause
- Cold Facts About Hot Flashes
- Did I just have a hot flash? I’m 44!
- Q: What is a hot flash?
- Q: How long will I get hot flashes?
- Q: What causes hot flashes?
- Q: How can you control hot flashes?
- How to Eliminate Hot & Cold Flashes From Anxiety
- Hot Flashes and Health
- The Hot And Cold Experience
- How to Stop Hot Flashes
- Hot and Cold Flashes – The Cure
It’s no secret that menopause is the most common cause of hot flashes. During menopause, your ovaries stop releasing eggs and your levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease. “It is this decrease in hormones that are thought to be the reason behind hot flashes,” says women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, MD.
✔️Cool off: If your symptoms are severe, your doctor might suggest hormone replacement therapy (HRT)—a medication that typically comes in the form of pills, skin patches, creams and gels, or a vaginal ring—to help balance out your hormone levels and relieve hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, like night sweats. However, there are certain risks to undergoing HRT, such as an increased of breast cancer and heart issues, so be sure to discuss all of your options with your OB/GYN before you commit to a treatment.
2. Prescription medications
Hot flashes are a side effect of many common prescription drugs, such as opioids, antidepressants, and some osteoporosis drugs, Dr. Simpson says. Certain steroids that are used to treat swelling can also trigger hot flashes.
Battaglino recommends looking for symptoms soon after starting a new course of medication. “If they coincide, you’ll know that’s probably the cause,” she says.
✔️Cool off: Let your health care provider know what’s up. He or she may be able to switch you to a similar drug that doesn’t leave you hot under the collar. “It may also be that the hot flashes will go away as your body gets acclimated to the medication, so your provider can reassure you the discomfort won’t last long,” Battaglino adds.
3. A hot bedroom
WEEKENDER Ventilated Gel Memory Foam Pillow amazon.com $29.99 $23.99 (20% off)
Your body temperature naturally fluctuates throughout the night, Dr. Simpson says. So it’s common for women (and men) to wake up in the middle of the night feeling overheated or sweaty.
✔️Cool off: “It may be as simple a fix as turning down the thermostat or sleeping with fewer blankets or clothes,” Dr. Simpson says. The National Sleep Foundation recommends keeping your bedroom temperature between 60 and 67 degrees for an optimal snooze. You can also try these cooling sheets, cooling pillows, and lightweight comforters to prevent night sweats.
4. Excess weight
Because excess weight can mess with your metabolism, it can also promote hot flashes, Battaglino says. And while weight alone can be a factor, the stage you are in your life may also matter. “Newer studies have shown that hot flashes may be more common in women who gain weight during menopause,” Dr. Wider says.
✔️Cool off: It’s a predictable remedy, but eating nutrient-rich foods and exercising more frequently can bring relief, especially if you’re overweight or obese, according to a 2010 study from the University of California, San Francisco. Compared with overweight and obese women who did not attempt to lose weight, those who ate a healthier diet and exercised 200 minutes per week were twice as likely to report fewer hot flashes.
5. Food allergies or sensitivities
Almost all of us experience something like a hot flash when we eat very spicy foods, but alcohol, caffeine, and additives like sulfites are also some common triggers. “It is thought that spicy foods that give food some heat and alcohol are vasodilators and expand your blood vessels,” Dr. Wider explains. But if you have an unidentified food allergy or intolerance, something else in your diet could be the cause, Battaglino explains.
✔️Cool off: Pay attention to how your body reacts the next time you ingest any of the foods above (or triggers you’re suspicious about) and you may find a correlation. If that doesn’t help, consider speaking with your doctor or a registered dietitian about a structured elimination diet.
While stress and anxiety are often used interchangeably, mental health experts tend to use the term “anxiety” to refer to the physical side of emotions like stress, fear, or worry. Anxiety disorders can cause a variety of symptoms like a racing heart, nervous fidgeting, heavy breathing, and hot flashes, Battaglino says.
That’s becaues hot flashes start in your brain, which is also where you experience stress and anxiety. “Whatever mitigates anxiety in the brain triggers hot flashes, but we don’t know the exact mechanism,” says Yvonne Bohn, MD, an ob/gyn at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. But it’s important that if you already tend to struggle with hot flashes, suffering from stress and anxiety can make them even worse, Dr. Wider says.
✔️Cool off: “Reminding yourself to breathe is a simple exercise that can help calm anxiety,” Battaglino explains. Natural anxiety remedies like exercise, meditation, and yoga can also help you relax. But if you still don’t find the relief you’re looking for, you may be suffering from a more serious form of anxiety and should consider speaking with a doctor or cognitive behavioral therapist about a treatment plan.
7. Medical conditions
Almost any medical problem related to your hormones or endocrine system could lead to menopause-like symptoms, including hot flashes. In particular, thyroid issues—especially an overactive thyroid—could explain your bouts of feeling warm, Battaglino says. Infections or viruses can also cause them, Dr. Sowa explains.
If the problem is your thyroid, you’ll likely experience other symptoms besides hot flashes. A racing heart, unexplained weight loss, lots of trips to the bathroom, and feeling extreme fatigue at certain times of the day are all symptoms associated with an overactive thyroid.
When it comes to other health issues—including infections—look for an elevated temp and symptoms like diarrhea or bowel discomfort, Dr. Sowa says.
✔️Cool off: If you’re experiencing any symptoms that seem unusual along with your hot flashes, talk to your doc about getting a diagnosis and treatment plan.
8. Breast cancer treatment
Hot flashes and night sweats can also be a side effect of breast cancer treatment, the National Cancer Institute reports. Oftentimes, radiation and chemotherapy can cause premature menopause in young women, and older women can go into menopause as a result of chemo.
“It has to do with hormone levels,” says Dr. Wider. If a woman takes the estrogen-modulating drug tamoxifen, for example, it can cause her estrogen levels to drop and trigger hot flashes. Certain procedures, like an oophorectomy (which a surgery to remove one or both ovaries), can also cause low estrogen levels and hot flashes, Dr. Wider says.
✔️Cool off: To help manage your symptoms, limit your consumption of spicy foods and hot drinks, avoid hot showers, saunas, and triggers like stress and alcohol. Take a cool shower before going to bed and lower the temperature in your bedroom. Sleep in clothing and bedding made of natural materials like cotton, linen, and silk.
How to prevent hot flashes from taking over your life
If you find that you’re regularly struggling with hot flashes, it’s important to check in with a doctor to try to figure out what’s going on. If lack of estrogen is the cause, your doctor will likely prescribe something to help increase the levels of the hormone in your body, like an estrogen supplement or antidepressant, Dr. Bohn says.
Other than that, you can try your best to wear light, loose clothes to bed, keep your house cool, and drink plenty of water, Dr. Wider says.
There’s only so much you can do to stop hot flashes altogether, but taking these steps should help limit how much you experience—and how severe they end up being.
Stay updated on the latest science-backed health, fitness, and nutrition news by signing up for the Prevention.com newsletter here. For added fun, follow us on Instagram.
Markham Heid Markham Heid is an experienced health reporter and writer, has contributed to outlets like TIME, Men’s Health, and Everyday Health, and has received reporting awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Maryland, Delaware, and D.C. Korin Miller Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more.
When your ovaries are still going strong and you’re dreading the onset of the Big M, you’re likely worrying about what exactly to expect. You’re probably full up on stories about hot flashes during perimenopause, but different women tell different tales — and there are plenty of nuances.
Some brush off hot flashes and chills as no big deal, just a warm feeling then a slight chill — nothing the crack of a window and a cardigan can’t handle. Others respond with an “OMG!” scream that their hot flashes come from the burning depths of hell, followed by an immediate arctic freeze. One minute they’re stripping off clothes, the next they’re pulling on sweaters and a scarf. Some are OK during the day but are constantly kicking off the comforter then piling on blankets as their temperature soars and dips during the night.
Ask a doctor what to expect and his or her noncommittal answer that “it depends” and “every woman is different” doesn’t exactly help. So what are these two most-talked-about symptoms of impending menopause going to really be like — and will there be any relief?
What Is a Hot Flash?
Brutally put, “menopause is your ovaries giving their last big gasp when estrogen is doing its erratic long goodbye,” says Dr. Pamela Peeke, author of Body for Life for Women and bestseller Fight Fat After Forty, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and adjunct senior scientist at the National Institute of Health. “Your ovaries are producing less and less estrogen, and it’s extremely erratic. Some days the heat’s turned up. Some days it’s down. The power surges are all over the flippin’ place, and that’s what drives women crazy.”
Hot flashes are caused by rapid changes in temperature, and cortisol is the culprit. “Stress hormone cortisol is extremely important, working with estrogen to regulate the usual menstrual cycle. However, when its BFF estrogen is going haywire, cortisol is going to get crazy — and trust me, that’s when you have a problem. Because when you have a lot of stress hormone going on, you get pretty heated, and — I’m sorry to say — it feels terrible and awful.”
And it can, literally, be a night and day experience of extremes.
Why Do We Heat Up at Night?
You go to bed cozy in your comforter, then you’re furiously kicking off the sheets, throwing open the windows and turning on the AC, feeling like you’re in the tropics. The next minute, you’re slamming the windows shut, turning up the thermostat, pulling up your comforter, and piling more blankets onto the tundra of your bed. You might wake up chilly or hot and bothered, your sheets soaking, thinking you’ve wet the bed.
Welcome to your new nights.
Normally, throughout the day, cortisol’s journey takes the same course, peaking first thing in the morning. “It’s not your iPhone alarm that wakes you up — it’s the girl mob of cortisol and adrenaline synchronizing to start your day,” Peeke says. This is why most women feel more energetic in the morning. Then, gradually through the day, your cortisol level slowly starts to come down, dipping at around 3 p.m. “That’s ‘OMG! I need another latte’ time!” Peeke explains. Around 5 or 6 p.m., cortisol starts flattening out, going to its lowest level. Your temperature begins to fall, and your metabolism is at its lowest as your body is preparing to sleep.
Remember, that’s “normally.” When you hit perimenopause, cortisol starts to go off the tracks and off course.
“It’s cortisol and its bestie estrogen, again, up to no good,” says Peeke. “They normally cruise at a great low level in the night. But during menopause, they break curfew and start partying, just like when they play hooky from their day jobs causing hot flashes. When estrogen loses control and gets erratic in the night, that’s when cortisol buddies up with its BFF, heats you up, and makes you sweat.” A brief cold flash or even a big chill can then hit, because your body overcompensates.
Unfortunately, perimenopause symptoms are as unpredictable as a tornado’s twister funnel, and your fluctuating heat index of hot and cold flashes is impossible to forecast. Because, well, “it depends.”
>READ: BEAT THE HEAT: HOT FLASH RELIEF
>READ: THE WEIRD PERIMENOPAUSE SYMPTOMS NO ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT
Photo: Courtney K
Want to read more great articles? Subscribe for free here.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Menopause?
Women may have different signs or symptoms at menopause. That’s because estrogen is used by many parts of your body. As you have less estrogen, you could have various symptoms. Many women experience very mild symptoms that are easily treated by lifestyle changes, like avoiding caffeine or carrying a portable fan to use when a hot flash strikes. Some women don’t require any treatment at all. Other symptoms can be more problematic.
Here are the most common changes you might notice at midlife. Some may be part of aging rather than directly related to menopause.
Change in your period. This might be what you notice first. Your periods may no longer be regular. They may be shorter or last longer. You might bleed more or less than usual. These are all normal changes, but to make sure there isn’t a problem, see your doctor if:
- Your periods come very close together
- You have heavy bleeding
- You have spotting
- Your periods last more than a week
- Your periods resume after no bleeding for more than a year
Hot flashes. Many women have hot flashes, which can last a few years after menopause. They may be related to changing estrogen levels. A hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat in the upper part or all of your body. Your face and neck become flushed. Red blotches may appear on your chest, back, and arms. Heavy sweating and cold shivering can follow. Hot flashes can be very mild or strong enough to wake you up (called night sweats). Most hot flashes last between 30 seconds and 10 minutes. They can happen several times an hour, a few times a day, or just once or twice a week.
Vaginal health and bladder control. Your vagina may get drier. This could make sexual intercourse uncomfortable. Or, you could have other health problems, such as vaginal or bladder infections. Some women also find it hard to hold their urine long enough to get to the bathroom. This loss of bladder control is called incontinence. You may have a sudden urge to urinate, or urine may leak during exercise, sneezing, or laughing.
Share this infographic and help spread the word about things women can do to stay healthy after menopause.
Sleep. Around midlife, some women start having trouble getting a good night’s sleep. Maybe you can’t fall asleep easily, or you wake too early. Night sweats might wake you up. You might have trouble falling back to sleep if you wake up during the night.
Sex. You may find that your feelings about sex are changing. You could be less interested. Or, you could feel freer and sexier after menopause. After 1 full year without a period, you can no longer become pregnant. But remember, you could still be at risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as gonorrhea or even HIV/AIDS. Your risk for an STD increases if you have sex with more than one person or with someone who has sex with others. If so, make sure your partner uses a condom each time you have sex.
Mood changes. You might feel moodier or more irritable around the time of menopause. Scientists don’t know why this happens. It’s possible that stress, family changes such as growing children or aging parents, a history of depression, or feeling tired could be causing these mood changes.
Your body seems different. Your waist could get larger. You could lose muscle and gain fat. Your skin could get thinner. You might have memory problems, and your joints and muscles could feel stiff and achy. Are these changes a result of having less estrogen or just related to growing older? Experts don’t know the answer.
In addition, in some women, symptoms may include aches and pains, headaches, and heart palpitations. Since menopausal symptoms may be caused by changing hormone levels, it is unpredictable how often women will have hot flashes and other symptoms and how severe they will be. Talk with your doctor if these symptoms are interfering with your everyday life. The severity of symptoms varies greatly around the world and by race and ethnicity.
Read about lifestyle changes to improve hot flashes and night sweats, and ways to get a good night’s sleep during the menopausal transition.
Read about this topic in Spanish. Lea sobre este tema en español.
For More Information on Menopause
Office on Women’s Health
Department of Health and Human Services
North American Menopause Society
National Institutes of Health Menopausal Hormone Therapy Information
This content is provided by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure that it is accurate, authoritative, and up to date.
Content reviewed: June 26, 2017
Cold Facts About Hot Flashes
The number one reason most women start systemic estrogen is to treat hot flashes once they realize that yoga, carrying a portable fan, and dressing in layers are not real solutions. Hot flashes occur in 75 percent of menopausal women and typically begin as a sudden sensation of heat on the face and upper chest that becomes generalized. A severe flash can be pretty intense (I call it the furnace inside you) lasting between two and four minutes with profuse sweating, followed by chills and shivering. Physiologically, a hot flash happens for the same reason that you sweat in a sauna… the body is trying to cool down. The difference is, you don’t really need to cool down, but your menopausal brain thinks you do. While most last 2-4 years, some women will experience flashes for up to 10 years. About 10 percent…forever.
Toughing it out works out for some women, but other’s who have severe hot flashes though out the day and nights are totally blind sided by just how debilitating hot flashes can be. Estrogen therapy will eliminate or dramatically reduce flashes, but many women choose not to take estrogen, or have been advised by their doctors to steer clear. In fact only 7 percent of women with hot flashes ultimately accept a prescription for estrogen. As an estrogen alternative, menopause experts, including myself, often prescribe one of the antidepressants which years ago were serendipitiously found to reduce hot flashes in menopausal women. This of course is the rationale for Brisdelle; the FDA approved option of low dose paroxetine, one of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants.
While numerous scientific studies have shown that many antidepressants are effective at reducing hot flashes, no studies have compared antidepressants, estrogen and placebo in the same study.
In the May 27 issue of JAMA, a new research study is published looking specifically at this issue. 339 peri and postmenopausal women in the study took estrogen, venlafaxine (an antidepressant), or a placebo for 8 weeks. Women that took the venlafaxine had a reduction in hot flashes that was essentially as good as women that took low dose estrogen.
In addition to flash frequency, this study also looked at “treatment satisfaction” and interference of symptoms with daily life and found that treatment satisfaction was highest for estradiol, intermediate for venlafaxine, and lowest for placebo.
The study is somewhat limited in that it was short (only 2 months) and did not evaluate libido or weight gain, both of which have been shown to be affected by antidepressants used in typical doses used to treat depression. That evaluation would require a longer study and more women. But, be that as it may, this is still important information and confirms that venlafaxine, like other SSRI’s and SNRI’s, at least in the short term, not only reduces hot flashes, but does it almost as well as estrogen.
Every once in awhile someone will say, my grandmother didn’t take anything for hot flashes, why should I? Well grandma was more likely to be home baking cookies than doing a job that required a good night’s sleep and the ability to think clearly. Grandma may have been having occasional sex with Grampa, (there’s a visual I didn’t need to give you!) but was unlikely to be starting a second marriage or a new relationship in her 50’s. Grandma likely did not live nearly as long as you will. So whether you chose to take hormone therapy or an alternative, if your flashes are getting in the way of your sleep, your sexual health or your quality of life, know that you have options.
Did I just have a hot flash? I’m 44!
Q: What is a hot flash?
A: Hot flashes are the quick bursts of hot skin and often drenching sweat that last anywhere from 30 seconds to about five minutes. Your face and neck may turn red, your heart rate may increase and you will most likely break out in a sweat. Night sweats are the same thing, only you’re asleep and are jolted awake by the heat and sweat sensation consuming your body.
These sudden bursts, especially at night, can cause fatigue, irritability and even forgetfulness. For 10 to 15 percent of women, hot flashes are so severe that they disrupt normal functions, such as leading a meeting or sticking to a schedule. If you feel your daily activities are impacted by hot flashes, make sure to speak with your gynecologist.
Q: How long will I get hot flashes?
A: On average, you may be looking at 10-15 years of living with hot flashes. Though they are sporadic, their unpredictability is very frustrating. Let’s look at what you can expect:
- 40s: This is when most women start perimenopause. Some hot flashes and night sweats begin. (For some, perimenopause starts in the 30s.)
- 46-53: In the U.S., this is the average age for menopause, which is defined as 12 straight months with no period. Hot flashes tend to be most frequent in the two years after menopause.
- Late 50s: Most women continue to have hot flashes anywhere from 4-10 years after menopause. But most of these will decrease in frequency and severity.
Q: What causes hot flashes?
A: The exact causes of hot flashes are still unknown, but they are thought to be related to changes in the brain’s thermoregulatory center, which controls heat production and loss, and is influenced by your hormones. During perimenopause, hormones start acting like a rollercoaster, with progesterone and estrogen levels changing in wide variations. These ups and downs don’t settle down until almost 10 years after menopause.
Q: How can you control hot flashes?
A: There are several ways to deal with hot flashes. Since hormone levels are changing all the time, we don’t treat the hormone levels — we treat the symptoms. Start with lifestyle changes, but if that doesn’t work, talk to your gynecologist about prescription medication.
1. Keep Yourself Cool.
- Dress in layers so you can easily remove clothes if you get hot.
- Wear natural fibers instead of synthetic materials.
- Carry a portable fan in your purse.
- Use cold water and pre-treated wipes to cool the back of your neck when you feel a hot flash coming on.
2. Avoid Triggers.
- It may take you a while to figure out your triggers. For most women, they include coffee and red wine.
- Review your medications with your provider. Certain high blood pressure and cholesterol medicines are known to cause hot flashes.
3. Acupuncture: Research has shown that acupuncture can be highly effective for resolving hot flashes. In a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, hot flashes were reduced by almost half for 50 percent of women over eight weeks of acupuncture treatment.
If lifestyle changes don’t help you manage hot flashes, talk to your gynecologist about medication.
- Menopause Hormone Therapy: This is really the gold standard for treatment options — it is the most effective way to make sure hot flashes are manageable. There is a multitude of options, and your gynecologist can recommend a treatment that meets your needs.
- Nonhormonal Medications: For women who do not wish to use hormone therapy, or cannot use it due to medical problems, there are nonhormonal medications such as gabapentin, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and clonidine.
- New Drugs: There are new drugs and injections being tested that may take care of specific menopausal symptoms. Especially if you cannot take hormone therapy because it may be harmful to you (a medical contraindication) or if you did not find relief with the other medications, these new drugs may be helpful. Talk to your provider to find out if you qualify to use them.
Hot flashes are an unavoidable part of being a woman. But with lifestyle choices and perhaps help from your gynecologist, you can manage them with minimal disruption to your life.
How to Eliminate Hot & Cold Flashes From Anxiety
Anxiety is more than just worries. It is the activation of your fight or flight system – the system that tells you when you need to feel fear. The ability to experience anxiety is actually a positive. Without anxiety, you wouldn’t run or fight when confronted with danger. It’s only when your fight/flight system overacts that you end up struggling with anxiety.
The fight or flight system is designed to both notify your entire body that you’re in a fearful situation and give you the tools you need to handle it. Unfortunately, when you suffer from an anxiety disorder, those same systems end up causing significant distress. One example of this problem is hot and cold flashes.
Hot Flashes and Health
Hot and cold symptoms can be incredibly disturbing. They may prevent you from sleep and cause you to feel like something is wrong. They occur during periods of intense anxiety, during anxiety attacks or sometimes simply at night when your mind is too active.
Only a doctor can diagnose the cause of your hot and cold symptoms, but these flashes may be caused by anxiety.
The Hot And Cold Experience
These “Flashes” are really just changes to your body temperature. During periods of intense anxiety, your body temperature heats up due to vasoconstriction, which is when your blood vessels tense up as they deliver more blood to the areas involved in fight and flight.
Vasoconstriction causes your body to heat up, and this creates what’s known as a “hot flash.” Your body heat appears to come out of nowhere, giving it its “flash” effects.
But the body also has a way of cooling itself down after it heats up. As soon as you start to experience heat, your body also releases more sweat. That sweat then reaches the air, and you start to cool down – in some cases becoming very cold. This is the “cold flash.” Your body itself isn’t necessarily becoming colder, so much as it is reacting to the sweat that it released to cool down after the hot flash.
When these hot flashes and cold flashes occur at night, it’s often referred to as “night sweats.”
How to Stop Hot Flashes
You can’t control your nervous system. The fight or flight response is specifically designed to ensure that in the event of actual danger, you make the right decision to fight or flee. While anxiety may be troubling, its biological purpose is still very useful, and without it you would be in severe danger when faced with a situation that should cause the fight or flight response to react.
So you can’t simply “turn off” these flashes on a whim. But you can affect the degree that they disrupt your life, and reduce your anxiety itself to prevent hot flashes from occurring. Many people try the following:
- Keep/Shed Clothing – Even though hot flashes occur internally, they’re still affected by your environment – especially in terms of your overall comfort level. Wearing comfortable, light fitting clothing and keeping extra clothing on hand will allow you to easily shed or add layers to adjust for feeling hot or cold. Looser clothes may also be helpful, since your sweat won’t stick to them.
- Get Up From the Bed – Many people find it nearly impossible to fall asleep when they’re suffering from night sweats. If that describes your situation, don’t wait it out. Get up and walk a bit around your home or watch TV. It’ll help you cool down, reduce the discomfort you have sleeping on a sweaty sheet and prevent your mind from focusing too heavily on the way you feel.
- Cool Your Thoughts – Hot flashes can be fueled by thoughts. If you’re obsessing over a single thought and it appears to be raising your body heat, find a way to get that thought out of your head. You can try a distraction, but a better tool is simply writing the thought out in a journal or on a piece of paper. When your thoughts are on paper, your mind worries about them less because it knows that they’re recorded in a permanent place.
- Relaxation Techniques – Relaxation strategies are not quite as effective for controlling hot and cold flashes as they are for simply controlling anxiety, because once your body heat starts to warm up, it’s usually too late to stop it. But controlling your stress may reduce the length of time that the hot flash affects you. Popular relaxation techniques are deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization.
- Drink Water – Drinking water may not stop the hot flashes, but it will ensure you feel better when it’s over. Sweating can take a lot of hydration out of your body. Refueling it in advance with some cool water can be very helpful. In addition, many find the act of drinking water to be soothing.
Many people try herbal supplements as well, but there aren’t many that support the idea they control anxiety hot flashes. Remember, although it can feel like a hot flash lasts forever, they’re generally somewhat short lived. It’s the way they drain your body that makes them appear to last.
Hot and Cold Flashes – The Cure
Because hot flashes are the result of your sympathetic nervous system overacting, there’s little you can do to guarantee that your hot flashes will stop unless you learn to manage your anxiety.
Your treatment depends on the type of anxiety problem you’re experiencing, your other symptoms, and how they affect you. Different severity of anxiety may also benefit from different types of treatments. Those with generalized anxiety disorder may not benefit from the same treatments as those with panic attacks, yet both can cause extreme anxiety that may trigger hot flashes.
Also, women that are going through menopause and men with low testosterone may also experience hot flashes, and these hot flashes may be made worse by anxiety and stress, but may not be caused by stress. In those cases, it may be important to talk to your doctor about the best way to manage your menopause/testosterone balance, and worry about your anxiety and hot flashes second.