I can clearly remember the first time I experienced a hot flash. You see, I was typically the one person in the crowd wearing a jacket while everyone else talked about what a lovely day it was. I was always cold. So, when I said to my husband one night, “Why is it so hot in here?” as he snuggled into his sweatshirt on the sofa, I knew something was up.
Even then, I chalked it up to a monthly hormonal flash or maybe a mild flu. We tell ourselves that, don’t we? No one wants to say the “M” word: menopause. However, a few days later as I sat in the car on a cold day, I suddenly felt my entire body heat up. I felt as if I’d been sunburned. I fanned myself and rolled down a window to let in some chilled air, but there was no denying it: I was having hot flashes. I called my mother, and we laughed together about my age and hers, and then she said, “You need to talk to your doctor sooner rather than later.” She was right.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you may experience the following symptoms during a hot flash:
- A sudden feeling of warmth spreading through your upper body and face
- A flushed appearance with red, blotchy skin
- Rapid heartbeat
- Perspiration, mostly on your upper body
- A chilled feeling as the hot flash subsides
Hot flashes vary for each woman in severity and frequency. You may have one a day or several, but they typically fade within just a few minutes. Any experience with hot flashes can signal it’s time to speak with your physician.
The exact cause of hot flashes is still relatively unknown and most likely due to a combination of changes in your body during perimenopause. If you’ve suddenly felt as if you are baking on a beach in the tropics - even though you’re standing in the frozen food aisle at the store - rest assured, there are treatments available.
Gentle Ways To Treat and Deal With Hot Flashes
- Cool Down - Keep ice water on hand to sip during daytime hot flashes and an ice pack beside your bed for nighttime flare-ups.
- Dress For Success - In warmer months, wearing light, cotton clothing can help make hot flashes more bearable. Clothing that does not “breathe” or is tight and restricting will only increase the discomfort. In the cold months, wear clothing that is easily removed or loosened so you don’t spend time fiddling with extra zippers or buttons as you try to gain relief.
- Nonhormonal Treatments - If you are reluctant about taking HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) and are seeking an alternative method, talk to your doctor about nonhormonal treatment options. Some, including medications typically used for seizures and antidepressants, have also been found to effectively reduce moderate to severe hot flashes during menopause, making symptoms less frequent and less intense for some women.
Hot Flashes. MayoClinic. Retrieved October 29, 2015. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hot-flashes/basics/symptoms/con-20034883
Understanding Hot Flashes. Healthline. Retrieved October 29, 2015. http://www.healthline.com/health/menopause/understanding-hot-flashes#Overview1
Reviewed October 30, 2015 by Michele Blacksberg RNRead more in Your Guide for Menopause & Hot Flash Treatment Options