A hot flash is a sudden, intense, hot feeling on your face and upper body. Hot flashes can be accompanied by a rapid heartbeat, sweating, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, headache, weakness, or a feeling of suffocation, followed by chills.
Hot flashes happen when your body’s estrogen levels drop or estrogen receptors are blocked. Your body’s thermostat can get confused, resulting in hot flashes. Menopause can cause hot flashes, as can several treatments for metastatic breast cancer:
- ovarian shutdown or removal
- hormonal therapy
If you’re experiencing hot flashes and they feel severe, talk to your doctor. If you're taking hormonal therapy, he or she may be able to adjust your prescription. In addition, try these tips to ease hot flashes:
- Avoid hot flash triggers such as stress, cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, diet pills, spicy food, hot food or drink, hot tubs, saunas, hot showers, hot rooms, and hot weather.
- Reduce the fat in your diet. A low-fat diet can help some people with hot flashes. Losing excess weight helps, but losing too much weight, or being too thin, can make hot flashes worse.
- Wear layers so you can peel off one layer after another as you get warmer.
- Avoid wearing heavy or thick fabrics such as wool, synthetics, or silk. Wear loose and airy fabrics such as cotton, linen, and rayon.
- Sip ice water to cool down. Carry a water bottle full of cold water and ice.
- Lower the room temperature by turning down the thermostat, turning on the air conditioner, or turning on the ceiling fan. Point a floor fan your way while you are sitting or sleeping.
- Sleep in cotton pajamas or a nightgown. When hot flashes happen at night, nightclothes are easier to change than sheets.
- Use cotton bedding. Cotton breathes more, soaks up sweat, and dries quickly.
- Take a cool shower before going to bed.
- Try complementary practices, including yoga, meditation, acupuncture, acupressure, and massage.
- Ask your doctor about techniques to help you sleep through the night if your hot flashes are affecting your sleep.
Read more about hot flashes.