If you’ve Googled “what does a hot flash feel like”, you’re not alone. An estimated 75-80% of perimenopausal women experience these sudden rushes of heat. If you find yourself rushing for the nearest fan to calm a sudden surge of heat, you’re likely experiencing hot flashes.
Hot flashes often come in waves throughout menopause, and you may have to deal with them for up to a year. Some women even report having them for over a decade.
Hot flashes aren’t usually dangerous or a sign of an illness. However, the sudden bursts of hot skin can be unpleasant. We’ll describe what a hot flash feels like, symptoms, causes of hot flashes, tips for relief, and more.
Table of contents
- What is a hot flash?
- What age do hot flashes start?
- How long do hot flashes last?
- What does a hot flash feel like?
- What causes hot flashes?
- How to stop hot flashes fast
What is a hot flash?
A hot flash is a sudden burst of hot skin that lasts between 30 to five minutes. It makes your face or neck turn red while increasing your heart rate. You will most likely start dripping sweat.
Hot flashes can cause irritation that can potentially affect the overall well-being. In some women, they are so severe that they disrupt normal functions. If your hot flashes affect your daily activities, it is vital to seek help from your healthcare provider.
What age do hot flashes start?
On average, hot flashes start in the late 40s to early 50s. This is the transitioning period from perimenopause to actual menopause. Nonetheless, this can vary for each person.
Some women experience early menopause due to certain factors such as chromosome issues, genetics, lifestyle factors, etc. In such cases, their hot flashes may begin to happen as early as in their 30s.
An estimated 40 percent of women between 60 and 65 still get hot flashes. If you experience hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms at this age, it's best to talk to your healthcare provider about hormone therapy or other treatment solutions.
How long do hot flashes last?
If you are experiencing perimenopausal hot flashes, you probably want to know how long you'll have to deal with them. As previously mentioned, hot flashes can last anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes.
Though it's common for hot flashes to last up to a year, some women report having them for a decade or longer. You may notice hot flashes come in waves, which happens because menopause isn’t a static state. Even if your period completely stops for years, your hormones are still in flux.
So let’s take a look at why we experience hot flashes, what makes them worse, and how you can alleviate symptoms.
What does a hot flash feel like?
During a hot flash, your face and neck may flush, your heart rate may increase, and you’ll likely start dripping sweat.
A hot flash causes a sudden heat sensation in the upper body. You may experience symptoms in the face, neck, chest, or arms.
Your heart rate may also increase during this time, intensifying the heat sensation. The frequency at which hot flashes occur varies significantly among women.
Some women may experience several hot flashes within an hour. Others may have hot flashes a few times a day or in a week.
After a hot flash, the body cools itself which leads to sweating. Because of this, you might feel cold or shiver. You may also have stress or anxiety, especially if they occur during the day when you are out in public.
Hot flashes and night sweats
Night sweats are hot flashes that occur when you are sleeping.
The difference between hot flashes vs. night sweats is that the former is a sudden surge of intense body heat. Night sweats are heavy sweating periods when sleeping. A hot flash can happen during the day or night, but night sweats mainly occur at night.
Another difference is that hot flashes only last for a moment, while night sweats last longer. Hot flashes tend to affect the upper body, including the face and neck. Night sweats bring profuse perspiration on the chest or the back. Both are menopausal symptoms that make you feel uncomfortably hot.
Hot flash symptoms
A hot flash can be mild or so severe that it disrupts daily activities. Most women experience the following symptoms.
- A sudden feeling of heat that spreads through your chest, neck, and face
- Increased heart beat rate
- Flushed appearance with red, dotted skin
- Stress or anxiety
- Feeling cold or shivering after a hot flash
- Perspiration, mainly in the upper body
Nighttime hot flashes or night sweats may result in long-term sleep disruptions, and impact your overall quality of life and well-being. If you find hot flashes impairing everyday activities, speak with your healthcare provider.
What causes hot flashes?
Medical experts haven’t pinpointed the exact causes of hot flashes, but research suggests it may be a mix of hormone changes and circulation issues.
Though your changing hormones may be the culprit, several lifestyle factors come into play.
Things like increased stress and anxiety, excess weight gain, and underlying health issues can increase the length and intensity of hot flashes. What you eat may also trigger hot flashes.
For instance, spicy food and alcoholic beverages can cause vasodilation, a widening of the blood vessels, and a major trigger for hot flashes.
How to stop hot flashes fast
Hot flashes are among the most frustrating symptoms of menopause. Most menopausal women want to know how to get rid of hot flashes and hot flash relief. Healthy habits can help control and even prevent hot flashes. Here's what we suggest:
Maintain a healthy weight
Excess weight increases your likelihood of experiencing hot flashes and night sweats during perimenopause and menopause.
Studies show that a higher body mass index (BMI) increases the prevalence of specific menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. Talk with your healthcare provider if you feel you carry excess weight.
Stay cool in bed
When you sleep, your body temperature drops. The heat you lose gets trapped inside your bedding, which can make hot flashes even worse.
A product like CalmHer Nite by Joylux can provide cooling comfort while you sleep. You can insert it into pillows or lie directly on it while on your bed, couch, or wherever. Other sleeping tips include turning on a fan at night, removing layers of clothing, and lowering your thermostat.
Switch to breathable bedding and lightweight pajamas. Also, keep your room temperature around 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dump bad habits
Smoking and excess alcohol consumption can trigger menopause symptoms. Avoiding these triggers can help to prevent severe episodes. Swap out alcohol for hot tea and water. If you need to quit smoking, talk with your doctor about smoking cessation.
Avoid trigger foods
It is also vital to work on your eating habits. Processed foods can cause an increase in hot flashes. Avoid spicy food and keep a diary of when you experience hot flashes. This can help you determine if specific foods trigger a hot flash.
Try supplements with caution
You can try to incorporate natural supplements into your diet. As with any supplement, you should always consult your doctor before using it.
For instance, some women find that black cohosh supplements can be a short-term hot flash treatment. However, women with a history of liver problems should not take them. Also, their effectiveness is mostly anecdotal, and there has not been enough scientific evidence to support them as a foolproof treatment option.
Flax seed supplements are another popular natural remedy for hot flash relief. One study found that taking flax seed supplements was as effective as hormone replacement therapy, specifically oral estrogen-progesterone, in treating mild menopausal symptoms.
Staying active during the day helps you regulate your body temperature. Studies have shown that regular exercise can help reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes.
You can try jogging, brisk walking, swimming, water aerobics, or biking. If you are beginning, start with 10 minutes daily and increase gradually. Note that daily exercise looks different for everyone, so choose an activity that suits you best.
Ask your doctor about hormone therapy
Hormone therapy is a common treatment option for perimenopause and menopause symptoms. Because your body loses estrogen during menopause, HRT focuses on increasing estrogen levels. There are many treatment options, including skin patches, tablets, estrogen gel, and more. Your doctor will help you decide the best choice for your needs.
Joylux offers a variety of resources for maintaining menopausal wellness in women. Check out our blog to find more educational articles and tips for easing into a new stage of life. You can also take our menopause quiz to find out what stage of menopause you may be experiencing.