Hot flash? What is happening in my body?

A hot flash is one of the most common symptoms of the menopause transition period, that is, the peri0menopausemenopause and postmenopausal periods in women. Occasionally though, hot flashes also result from various medical conditions affecting men and young women especially during pregnancy, such as the carcinoid syndrome. These medical conditions interfere with the body’s ability to regulate body temperature hence resulting in the flashes. If you are experiencing some hot flashes or night sweats, here is an insight into the condition, its causes, triggers and possible prevention tricks.

What exactly is a hot flash?

A hot flash, also commonly referred to as a hot flush, is a feeling of intense heat or warmth that often begins in the head and neck regions before spreading to the rest of the body. It appears suddenly or you can feel it coming and often lasts several minutes. It is sometimes associated with sweating, especially at night. Hot flashes occur when the blood vessels close to your skin’s surface dilate to cool. Some women may sweat to cool down their bodies while others may have chills or a rapid heart rate.

During a hot flash, you may experience:

  • Faster than usual heartbeatshot flash image
  • Tingling in your fingers
  • A red or flushed face
  • Sweating, especially at night and particularly on the upper body
  • Sudden warmth on the skin

What causes hot flashes?

It is not exactly about what causes hot flashes. But common suggestions have stated that hormonal changes in the body, especially during the menopause period could be the reason. There are various complex hormonal changes that take place during aging, particularly the decline of estrogen production in women as they approach menopause. These are thought to be the primary causes of hot flashes.

Researchers suggest that changing hormone levels affect thermoregulation (the methods that the body uses in the control and regulation of body temperature) resulting in the heat sensation experienced with hot flashes. However, they cannot quite explain how those changing hormone levels exactly affect thermoregulation.

How can you prevent or control hot flashes?

Hot flashes are probably inevitable during menopause, but there are various do’s and don’ts you can follow to help lower their occurrences and prevent them from being severe. And note, each woman’s triggers for hot flashes may be quite different, but some of the most common ones include;

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Eating very spicy foods
  • Taking products with caffeine
  • Dressing in too tight clothes
  • Stress and anxiousness
  • Staying in a hot room
  • Smoking cigarettes or being exposed to their smoke

To find out your major triggers, it is best that you keep a journal of what you were doing, eating, drinking, smoking, wearing, or feeling when the hot flashes began. After several weeks of the flashes recurring, you can be able to draw up a pattern of the various things/triggers to avoid.

Other tips to help you prevent hot flashes include:

  • Staying cool during the day and at night. Fans and the Air Conditioning system will help with this. Also ensure you dress in light layers of clothes made from natural fiber materials such as cotton.
  • Engage in plenty of exercises. Go swimming, cycling, dancing, take walks, morning jogs, and any other exercise activities that intrigue you.
  • Practice deep but slow abdominal breathing. You can try about 5 to 10 breaths per minute.
  • Look for chill pillows to use at night. They might help.

However, if your hot flashes are severe and are affecting the quality of your life negatively, seek medical help. Your doctor can recommend taking the hormone replacement therapy for a short while (less than 5 years). This medical treatment helps prevent hot flashes as well as other symptoms of menopause like mood disorders and vaginal dryness in many women. There are also supplements, herbs, and over-the-counter drugs that some women use to prevent hot flashes. If you opt for these, make sure you consult your doctor for approval.