How Do You Get Hot: A Quick Guide to Menopausal Hot Flashes
By Ellen Sarver Dolgen
Have you ever had a hot flash at just the wrong moment? Maybe you’re having coffee with your girlfriend and all of a sudden you burst out into a fit of heat and sweat. It can be strange, uncomfortable, and downright embarrassing! Don’t worry, you are not alone! Most women experience hot flash symptoms during perimenopause and menopause; however, knowing this fact does not make the experience any more enjoyable.
As we enter our 40’s and 50’s (sometimes even our late 30’s), estrogen levels decrease and your estrogen/progesterone balance changes, which are typically thought to be the causes of hot flash symptoms — aka annoying bouts of extreme heat! Every woman will experience different perimenopause and menopause symptoms and recognizing how hot flashes affect you personally is a great start toward finding relief.
Some hot flash symptoms are a sudden rush of heat – so hot that your face may actually become flushed – that may quickly subside. Others can be an all-day sweat session of intense perspiration. Some women have hot flash symptoms only in their upper body, while others like me experience them in their lower body. Some women experience hot flash symptoms daily, while others go weeks at a time without one, or only experience them at night (usually referred to as night sweats). These can keep you up later at night than your restless teenage son on a caffeine binge.
Thankfully, these sweaty episodes typically decrease over time as you go through the perimenopause stage and into postmenopause. Still there are a few hot flash symptom triggers that can affect the intensity, frequency and duration that you should know about. For one, try reducing your caffeine intake, especially before bedtime. Alcohol is another trigger; but don’t panic. Not everyone is affected by alcohol (so we’re not giving up cocktail hour, right?!) You can also chill out with cool air and cold water! And now is as good of a time as any to quit smoking! Smokers are more likely to have menopausal hot flash symptoms than nonsmokers so get rid of that pack of cigs and you may enjoy fewer flashes (and better overall health). Many women also find acupuncture or Hormone Therapy to be a tremendous help. Talk to your doctor about your options and what’s best for you and your body.