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Hot flashes (or hot flushes) are when a sudden feeling of intense warmth moves through the face, neck and chest, which usually creates profuse sweating.
It’s not the same as feeling hot from the sun or when sitting next to a heater in winter. These situations can definitely make you feel hot – but, they’re caused by an outside factor.
Hot flashes, on the other hand, have an internal, biochemical cause, e.g. hormone fluctuations, medications, infections, and can develop in men and women.
Most people connect these with women, hormones and menopause. But, hormones can also cause hot flashes in men.
A severe testosterone deficiency, sometimes called Andropause, can trigger men’s hot flashes. It’s not exactly ‘male menopause’. And doesn’t occur in all men. Although, when it does the symptoms are similar, i.e, hot flashes, fatigue, mood swings.
Hot flashes in men and women can occur during the day and/or night. If they happen at night time, including when you’re sleeping, they’re called night sweats. Both hot flashes and night sweats can make you feel overheated, but then chilled when the experience ends.
Not everyone’s hot flashes are the same.
In some people, hot flashes symptoms are mild and only last a few seconds.
A more intense version is when hot flashes cause symptoms that last 5+ minutes. These hot flashes can disrupt daily activities and, sometimes, trigger anxiety while the heat persists.
Menopause can cause hot flashes symptoms that are both mild and intense. Symptoms develop as the ovaries begin to change. This results in estrogen and progesterone rising and falling in unpredictable ways.
There are 4 types of menopausal hot flashes:
Some women experience minimal or no hot flashes during menopause. This is most common amongst Chinese women.
Women with anxiety and depression are prone to prolonged hot flashes. This begins early in the transition phase and continues throughout the process. African American women may also be susceptible.
These hot flashes start early during the menopausal transition. They’re common in women with a high body mass index (BMI), anxiety, depression, or who begin menopause later in life. These may morph into Prolonged Hot Flashes.
Women with a low BMI or who smoke are more likely to experience hot flashes later in the menopausal phase.
Having an intense hot flash in public can be embarrassing. One moment you’re fine, the next it feels like you’ve been placed in the middle of a forest fire and can’t escape the heat. As your internal temperature builds, so does the sweat under your arms and on the top of your lip. All you can do is centre yourself and wait for the uncomfortable moment to pass.
Michelle Obama, former first lady, knows what this is like. Here’s what she had to say about dealing with hot flashes during her husband’s presidency:
“I remember having one on Marine One. I’m dressed, I need to get out, walk into an event, and literally, it was like somebody put a furnace in my core and turned it on high, and then everything started melting. And I thought, Well, this is crazy—I can’t, I can’t, I can’t do this”.
Fortunately, Barack was quick to respond. He ordered the air conditioner be switched on to help his wife.
Sometimes, support and understanding is the best hot flushes treatment. But there are other treatments available too.
Hot flashes symptoms and signs include:
It’s important to seek hot flushes treatment if your symptoms are intense or disrupting your quality of life. There are many treatment options available, including:
Understanding what causes hot flashes can be complex – and it’s not always your hormones. Here’s a comprehensive list of causes:
Dress in layers to help you regulate your temperature throughout the day. Even small increases in body temperature can trigger hot flashes symptoms. Be sure to avoid wearing heavy outfits with little breathability.
Carry a portable fan with you everywhere you go. Being able to fan yourself during a hot flash won’t just cool you down. It will help you feel proactive and more in control of the situation.
Phytoestrogenic Foods contain plant-based estrogens. Eating these foods can help prop the body’s estrogen level and minimise symptoms: organic tofu and tempeh, flaxseeds, berries, oats, carrots, apples, lentils, sesame seeds.
Hot and Spicy Foods are best avoided as they increase your internal temperature. Chillies and strong curries notoriously cause problems.
Say ‘No’ to Red Wine and Caffeine as studies show that women who drink either (or both) of these substances are more prone to menopausal hot flashes.
Supplements can be very useful for treating hot flashes and night sweats. They’re ideal if you prefer to take a natural approach to wellbeing, or aren’t suitable for mainstream hormone-replacement therapy. Common choices include Black Cohosh, Stinging Nettle, Thyme, Sage and Vitamin E.
Relaxation Techniques are helpful because they reduce stress hormones in your bloodstream. Adrenaline, a stress hormone, increases your core temperature and makes you more prone to sweating and overheating. Try massage, meditation, yoga, pilates and deep breathing.
Acupuncture is a safe and effective hot flushes treatment. It stimulates the release of neurotransmitters that help you relax and feel good.
The following health experts can help you cool down:
Here’s how to support someone dealing with hot flushes:
What causes hot flashes?
The main cause of hot flushes is fluctuating hormone levels before, during and after menopause. Researchers are still trying to understand why this phenomenon occurs. Other causes include:
What do hot flashes feel like?
Hot flushes make you suddenly feel very warm and uncomfortable internally. As a rising heat moves through your face, neck and chest, you begin sweating and your heart rate increases. If the hot flash lasts for more than a few moments, you may feel anxious. As you cool, you may be a little chilly as your temperature regulates.
What helps hot flushes?