Menopause

Hot Flashes: Causes, Symptoms, and What to Do

Team Peanut29 days ago6 min read

If you’re having hot flashes, you’re part of a big club. Over 75% of perimenopausal women in the United States report experiencing them. If it’s any cooling comfort, you are not alone.

Hot Flashes

But just because they are par for the menopausal course doesn’t make them any easier to deal with.

They can disrupt your day, get in the way of a good night’s sleep, and generally leave you feeling less than your best.

Luckily, there are some measures you can take to ease the burn.

So, let’s start from the beginning. What are hot flashes, what are the signs that you have them, and what can you do to keep your cool?

Hot flashes FAQs

What are hot flashes?

Hot flashes—typically associated with menopause and perimenopause—are heat surges that start in your face and spread through your body.

They commonly occur at night and can leave you waking up in a hot, sweaty mess. Fun, fun, fun.

Importantly, while they are common, not everyone experiences them in the same way. For some, the symptoms of hot flashes are mild. For others, they can be quite debilitating.

In more severe cases, they can affect your energy levels, your concentration, and get in the way of your sex life.

After all, snuggling up seems so much less appealing when your sheets are already sweaty from having hot flashes at night.

Bottom line? If you are struggling, get in touch with your healthcare provider. You don’t have to go through this alone.

At what age do hot flashes start?

Hot flashes most commonly occur over the menopausal phase of life.

Menopause is defined as the point twelve months after you have your last period.

And while this definition is helpful in some ways because it gives us a definitive marker, menopause is better understood as a phase rather than a moment in time.

It’s common to go through menopause and perimenopause—the months or years leading up to when your period stops—in your 40s and 50s. According to this study, the average age is 51.5 years.

In this time, you may experience a variety of symptoms, including vaginal dryness, mood changes, and headaches. One of the more common symptoms is—you guessed it—hot flashes.

There’s no hard and fast rule here—but hot flashes typically occur more frequently in menopause than in perimenopause.

What causes hot flashes?

So why do they happen? While the jury is still out on their exact cause, the findings seem to point overwhelmingly in the direction of hormonal changes.

As this 2019 literature review tells us, hot flashes appear to be most commonly associated with decreased levels of estrogen.

When you go through menopause, your body no longer needs to produce the same levels of estrogen and progesterone. Think of it as reverse puberty.

These hormonal changes, while a totally normal part of life, can lead to uncomfortable symptoms.

While we don’t know with all certainty how hormone changes cause hot flashes, there are some well-supported theories. It’s likely that decreased levels of estrogen affect your hypothalamus—the part of your brain that acts as your body’s temperature regulator—making you more sensitive to temperature changes.

But—plot twist—hot flashes are not only linked to menopause. It’s common to experience hot flashes during pregnancy and in the postpartum period. In both of these cases, the culprit appears to be hormonal shifts.

So how do you know if hot flashes are indeed what you are experiencing? Let’s take a look.

What are signs of hot flashes?

Signs of hot flashes include:

  • Heat spreading from your face through your upper body—and sometimes your whole body.
  • Going red in the face and neck.
  • Sweating.
  • Palpitations.
  • Feeling anxious.

Next question: are they always harmless—or are there times when you should be worried about hot flashes?

What illness gives you hot flashes?

In most cases, hot flashes are not a cause for concern—but if you are at all worried about them, get in touch with your healthcare provider.

Sometimes hot flashes can signal a hidden health issue, such as thyroid problems or heart disease. (And even if this is not the case, you don’t have to suffer alone.)

How long do hot flashes last?

Hot flashes can be very quick—like 30 seconds—or more lengthy—as in a full five minutes.

They can be in your life for quite a while—the average being seven years. Sometimes, they may go on for over eleven years.

We’ll drop in with a gentle reminder here: you don’t have to just live with this. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best course of treatment for you.

How many hot flashes per day is normal?

“Normal” is a tricky word when it comes to bodies. There is a wide spectrum of experience when it comes to hot flashes.

You can experience them a few times a week, a few times a day, or, in more severe cases, a few times an hour.

How to stop hot flashes fast

We hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but there’s no magic pill when it comes to dealing with hot flashes. The good news is that, depending on how severe your hot flashes are, there are definitely ways to make your life more comfortable.

  • Here are some ideas to make your life a little easier:
  • Sleep in light, non-restrictive clothing.
  • Dress for the possible onslaught. Layers help. You never know when those flashes may strike.
  • Cool down your room, particularly at night.
  • Try to avoid (or cut back on) caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, as these can all trigger those surges.
  • Sip cold water and keep a glass of it next to your bed.
  • Use a cold compress. Have one handy in case you wake up in the middle of the night feeling flushed.

If you are experiencing mild to severe hot flashes, your doctor may recommend that you go on Hormone Replacement Therapy

We are also starting to learn more about the link between hot flashes, anxiety, and depression. (Check out this study for more on this.)

Talk therapy can really help you navigate the change. As can your Peanut community. It’s time that we had the conversation.

Wishing you all the best.

📚 More on menopause:
Introducing, Peanut Menopause
What Happens During Menopause?
How to Deal With Menopause
When Does Menopause Start?
How Long Does Menopause Last?
Painful Sex After Menopause? What to Know
What to Know About Menopause Joint Pain
Unusual Menopause Symptoms You Might Not Know
Why Are My Breasts Getting Bigger After Menopause?
Menopause Fatigue: What to Know and What to Do
What to Do About Menopause Bloating
Are You Getting Cramps After Menopause?
Essential Oils for Menopause: What Helps?
What You Need to Know About Menopause Mood Swings