Women's Health

What are Hot Flashes?

What are Hot Flashes?

Key Takeaways

  • Hot flashes tend to occur among women who are premenopausal, or in the menopausal stage.
  • Triggers for hot flashes include the heat, smoking, stress, caffeine, spicy foods, and alcohol.

Hot flashes are a sensation of warmth that is often followed by sweating, particularly in the neck and the face. These are normally seen in women who are permenopausal or in the menopausal stage. Hot flashes result in a flushed face and mostly occurs in the night. Some women report to have chills following the hot flashes. These changes happen as the blood vessels near the skin’s surface dilate. As the vessels dilate, it gives a reddish color to the face and neck.

Hot flashes are caused by hormonal changes, which are normal during permenopause and menopause. During this period, the levels of the female hormone, estrogen, reduce and this is considered to be the most important cause for hot flashes. The frequency and severity of hot flashes vary depending on the individual. Most women feel it for 30 seconds to few minutes. In some women, this is only for a short duration, while others may suffer for a life time. Few factors are known to increase the risk of hot flashes; these factors include smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. 

In most cases, the severity of hot flashes is known to reduce with time. Hot flashes can be controlled by lifestyle changes and home remedies, but if it becomes quite bothersome, one needs to meet the doctor. The best way to prevent hot flashes is to avoid the triggers totally or limit them.

Major triggers of hot flashes are:

  • Heat
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Caffeine
  • Spicy foods
  • Alcohol

Try to include a regular routine of exercise to reduce hot flashes. Learn deep breathing and try it out during the onset of hot flashes. Avoid wearing tight clothes, particularly in the night, and keep the room cool to control night sweats.

No treatment is required if hot flashes are not much of an interference in your daily routine. 

There are several options to help maintain hot flashes:

  • Hormone therapy – Hormones like estrogen and progesterone are known to reduce hot flashes. They also help in reducing other symptoms of menopause like vaginal dryness and mood changes. One can also think of bioidentical hormone preparations for relief.
  • Antidepressants – Hot flashes decrease with some low doses of antidepressants. But they do have side effects like nausea, dizziness and weight gain.
  • Prescription medications – Oral contraceptives, anti-seizure drug like neurontin and certain blood pressure medications are also helpful in reducing hot flashes.
  • A number of plant products are also known to alleviate this condition, including soy products, evening primrose oil, flax seed, licorice, chasteberry, and wild yam.