Hot flashes can cause discomfort, embarrassment, and frustration. They can strike unexpectedly, often at the most inconvenient times. But how can you know if what you're experiencing is actually a hot flash? In order to effectively manage hot flashes, it's important to first be aware of their signs.
About Hot Flashes
Doctors and researchers estimate that 85% of American women will experience hot flash episodes during their lives, with the most common reason being menopause. During menopause, hot flashes are caused by changing hormone levels in women's bodies.
When estrogen is especially low, the hypothalamus in the brain — responsible for regulating body temperature — reacts by causing the body to heat up quickly in what can be described as a mild, brief fever.
Signs of Hot Flashes
Hot flashes are characterized by a sudden rush of heat that radiates throughout the body for a short time. These episodes often last about thirty seconds, although there are certain cases where hot flashes can last longer. Aside from the momentary sensation of heat, there are a few other signs you may be having a hot flash. These include:
- Flushed or warm skin. Skin will often feel warmer to the touch than usual, and those with lighter skin tones may notice a flushed pink or red color in the cheeks.
Perspiration. Many women sweat much more than normal when they are experiencing a hot flash. Though this can be uncomfortable, it usually passes quickly.
Rapid or irregular heartbeat. Also contributing to the warm skin and perspiration, a rapid or irregular heartbeat should return to normal shortly after a hot flash episode. If it doesn't, consult a doctor.
Slight nausea. Sudden slight feelings of nausea are usually brief and don't necessarily result in vomiting.
Headache. Headaches might last longer than nausea, but should dissipate on their own. If they persist or become severe, over-the-counter painkillers will usually take care of the discomfort.
Chills. Many times, after the sensation of extreme heat passes, perspiration is still on the skin, causing chills to directly follow hot flashes.
Hot Flashes Treatments
Women who are fighting hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause and want to regain control over their bodies have many treatment options. These can be divided into the following categories:
- Lifestyle changes
- Alternative medicine
- Prescription medications
Explore these options and talk to your doctor about the safest and most effective treatment plan for your specific symptoms.