For many women, hot flashes can feel like a menopausal nightmare, with profuse sweating followed by cold chills. They can last anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes, and the exact reason for having hot flashes is not yet fully understood. They are thought to be caused by a combination of hormonal and biochemical fluctuations due to declining estrogen levels during menopause.
What Are Hot Flashes?
A hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat that spreads throughout the body. Most often they are felt in the head and neck regions and are accompanied by sweating and perspiration. Nearly 40% of menopausal women suffer from hot flashes, which often begin before menopause. In most cases, hot flashes can last up to five years, but there are reports of women having hot flashes for as long as 10 years.
Hot flashes can be extremely uncomfortable and can be triggered by stress. Continue reading to learn more about how to manage hot flashes during a stressful emergency.
Tips on Dealing with Hot Flashes in an Emergency
Most often hot flashes appear at the worst times, like when your car decides to break down in the middle of the highway on your way to an important business meeting. According to medical professionals, it's important to practice deep breathing techniques during a hot flash. Breathing deeply from abdomen at a slow pace can decrease the duration of hot flashes, which is critical in the middle of a stressful situation.
Practicing breathing exercises for a few minutes a day can prevent a mildly stressful situation from turning into a meltdown. To begin, breathe deeply so that the stomach is pushed out. Exhale for five seconds to ensure all the air is out of your lungs. When the abdominal muscles go in and up, then all of the air is expelled. Repeating this slowly and at a rhythmic pace helps your body to relax while simultaneously cooling down.
Dress in layers. In summer this can mean wearing a light sweater with a tank top or shirt underneath. If you're out and a hot flash starts, you can shed some of these layers. Keep plastic bags in your car and purse so you can grab ice, storing it in the bags and using it to cool down when needed. If you're at the grocery store, try spending a few minutes in the walk-in frozen food section or dairy aisle until the hot flash passes.
For more information about hot flashes and how to treat them, follow the links below.
- "Hot flashes ... in January". Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2004: 170 (1).
- Miller, Heather and Rose Maria Li, M.D. "Measuring Hot Flashes: Summary of a National Institutes of Health Workshop". Conference report. Mayo Clinic. June 2004: 79.
- Sikon, Andrea and Holly Thacker M.D. "Treatment for Menopausal Hot Flashes". Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. July 2004: 71 (7).