Hot Flashes: What Are The Causes, Symptoms And Treatments

hot flashes

Introduction

Hot flashes are the sudden feelings of warmth in the upper body. The symptoms are mostly experienced in the chest, arms, neck, or face. Additionally, you may even feel your face turning red, like blushing, along with sweating. These periods of warmth, excessive sweating, and facial flushing may last from anywhere between 30 seconds to a few minutes.

Menopause is the most common cause of a hot flash. Adding on to it, almost 70% of women will face hot flashes over their lifetime. However, in men or young women, it could be due to other reasons, like medical conditions which interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature.

How Long Do Hot Flashes Last?

While there is no definite period for how long a single hot flash may last, most women experience it for about four minutes. However, a single hot flash can last anywhere between a few seconds to around 10 minutes.

Even the frequency of a hot flash differs from person to person. Some women may experience a few hot flashes per week while others may experience several of them in an hour. Moreover, hot flash mostly lasts for 7 years on average.

Hot Flash Triggers

The main cause of hot flash is menopause, but several habits could trigger the condition. A few of those habits are:

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Eating spicy food
  • Being in a hot room
  • Wearing tight clothes
  • Smoking
  • Hot drinks
  • Consuming products with caffeine

There are even a few health conditions that can act as triggers for a hot flash:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Diabetes
  • Tumours
  • Eating disorders
  • Pregnancy, especially during the first and second trimesters
  • Overactive or underactive thyroid
  • Spinal lesions

Even certain forms of medication and therapy might trigger hot flashes. Examples of these are chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and birth control medication.

Bonus Read: Alcohol And Menopause: Can You Drink During Menopause?

Symptoms Of Hot Flashes

Hot flashes are usually characterized by a rush of heat felt in your body. But to diagnose the problem better, you should watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Experience redness on parts of the upper body, like face, chest, or neck
  • Excessive sweating, especially in the upper body
  • Tingling in your fingers
  • Experiencing a heartbeat that’s faster than usual

To avoid hot flashes, you could maintain a journal to note down your symptoms and triggers. This would help you avoid those triggers in the future.

Natural Ways To Treat Hot Flashes

While menopause is the primary cause of hot flashes, general lifestyle habits are what trigger it. Making a few changes in our lifestyle habits can help treat hot flashes. Some of these changes are as follows.

Stress Reduction Techniques

It is likely for you to face more hot flashes when you’re stressed or anxious. Therefore, by practising a few stress reduction techniques, you can control hot flashes considerably. A few practices to reduce stress levels are:

  • Meditation
  • Guided breathing
  • Yoga
  • Workout
  • Listening to music
  • Reading a book

Even taking some time to sit in your backyard, or spending time with your pets can help reduce stress greatly.

Stay Cool

Since heat is a reason for hot flashes, staying in a cool environment will help. A few ways to regulate your body temperature are:

  • Wear light clothes or dress in layers that can be easily removed
  • Take a cool shower rather than one with hot water
  • Keep the temperature in your room low by turning down the temperature of the thermostat, or leaving the
  • windows open
  • Consider placing a fan next to your bed
  • Run cool water over your wrists

Moreover, stay away from overcrowded and hot places, since they will likely trigger your hot flashes.

Regulate Your Diet

Certain food and drinks can trigger your hot flashes. A few examples are spicy food, caffeinated drinks, high-fat and high-sugar foods, and alcohol. Therefore, you should cut back on these things to reduce the chances of getting hot flashes. Moreover, even switching to a largely plant-based diet is supposed to have a great impact on treating hot flashes.

Ultimately, it is important to learn what food or drinks trigger this condition. Once you have that figured out, you can avoid those items to treat your hot flash.

Soy Isoflavones

Soy contains certain chemicals that help in reducing hot flashes to a great extent. Moreover, it is even studied as an agent that can relieve menopausal symptoms. Therefore, it is no surprise since menopause is a cause of hot flashes. You can consume food that is rich in soy to help with this. A few of these food items are:

  • Edamame
  • Miso
  • Soymilk
  • Tofu
  • Meat alternatives
  • Soy nuts
  • Tempeh

You could even consider taking soy supplements, however, the number of isoflavones in supplements is much larger than what occurs naturally in food.

Black Cohosh

Black cohosh is one of the most popular herbs used to treat hot flash. The root of this plant is used in capsules and teas, both of which are easily available in health food stores and online.

However, this herb has some minor side effects like stomach aches and rash. Additionally, even liver failure was reported in a few individuals taking black cohosh, which is lethal. Therefore, you should talk to your doctor before taking it and inform your doctor about any pre-existing conditions.

Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose oil is extracted from the evening primrose flower. Many menopausal women use this to improve and cure their hot flashes symptoms. Two 500-milligram doses are said to significantly improve hot flash symptoms.

However, there is not much research on this, and it may interfere with some blood thinners and other medications.

Dong Quai

Dong Quai is a plant native to East Asia and is sometimes taken alongside black cohosh. Not much has been studied about this herb, so it cannot be concluded how effective it is for hot flashes. However, if at all, you should not take it with blood thinners.

Other Practices

You can make a few general lifestyle changes and drop some habits to treat your hot flashes. A few of these changes are:

  • Quit smoking
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Not only will these changes help in treating hot flashes but will contribute to a generally healthy lifestyle.

Treatment For Hot Flashes

If making lifestyle changes is not working for you or is difficult for some reason. You could go in for a variety of treatment options to treat a hot flash. A few of these treatments are:

  • Hormone replacement therapy replaces the body’s natural hormones such as estrogen and progesterone
  • Low-dose depression drugs like fluoxetine or paroxetine
  • Clonidine, a blood pressure medication
  • Gabapentin, a drug used for seizures
  • B complex vitamins, vitamin E and ibuprofen

However, you should avoid hormone replacement therapy if you have:

  • Had certain kinds of cancers, like breast or uterine cancer
  • Blood clots
  • Had a stroke or heart attack, or have a strong family history of heart diseases
  • The chances of becoming pregnant or are pregnant
  • Had problems with vaginal bleeding or have a bleeding disorder
  • Had an allergic reaction to hormone medication

It is important to share your medical history with your doctor before beginning hormone replacement therapy. Primarily because HRT increases the risk of heart attacks, stroke, blood clots, breast cancer, gallbladder diseases, and dementia.

What Doctor To Consult For Hot Flashes?

Since menopause is the primary cause of a hot flash, most women would consult their gynaecologist. However, it is also treated by primary care providers, like internists and family practitioners. If there is some other underlying condition for your hot flashes, you should have a specialist look at it.

Conclusion

Some women only experience occasional hot flashes that do not get in the way of daily life, however, it can be very uncomfortable for many others.

Women can use the mentioned home remedies to treat hot flashes over some time. However, if their symptoms are severe they can go in for medical treatment and prescribed medication.

It is advisable to talk to a doctor about the best and safest methods for relieving symptoms, as these can vary between individuals.

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