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What are the Symptoms of Hot Flashes?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2019
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Women who have experienced hot flashes, usually associated with the perimenopausal period, generally don’t need a description of their symptoms. The collection of symptoms of hot flashes tends to be difficult to mistake for anything else, though the frequency of occurrence and the length they last varies. While some women don’t get this symptom in the years leading up to menopause, it’s estimated that at least 50% of women do. The medical literature disagrees on this percentage, suggesting that up to 90% of women experience this symptom as part of menopause.

Symptoms of hot flashes aren’t always the same for each person. The main symptom is an unmistakable feeling of warmth that may spread from lower body to upper body as the flash progresses. This warmth usually isn’t comfortable. There is no avoidance of the flash when it is occurring, and the heat tends to build and may particularly focus on the head. Many women especially describe a feeling of strong pressure in the head, as the flash is ongoing.

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With this sense of heat come other symptoms of hot flashes. Facial skin, and the delicate skin of the chest and neck, may get flushed or blotchy red. Another of the symptoms of hot flashes for many women is extreme perspiration. Sometimes these flashes occur during sleep and women may find they wake up feeling drenched in sweat with nightclothes and bedclothes both damp from a nighttime flash. More challenging yet may be the experience of having a racing heart as flashes occur, which is reported by some women who experience them.

The last of the symptoms of hot flashes that is most reported is a chilly sensation as the heated feeling begins to subside, which is usually anywhere from a minute or two to up to a half hour after symptoms began. The chilled sensation can include getting actual chills or having related symptoms like goosebumps. Since sweating has occurred, feeling very cold after being uncomfortably warm is often exaggerated.

Fewer people report less common symptoms of hot flashes, but they can certainly occur. Some people get faint or very dizzy when these episodes happen. Women have recounted getting extremely nauseous as hot flashes reach their apex. A few people note a sense of weakness, and overall women experiencing regular severe episodes find they have to modify their habits so that they don’t get caught driving or out in public when a flash occurs.

Some women take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to deal with symptoms of hot flashes, but the medical community has recently discouraged this approach because it increases risks of certain cancers. Others cope by dressing in layers, using air-conditioning, keeping ice water nearby, or they evolve other strategies. Since hot flashes can be ongoing for several years, though they may vary in severity, occur with greater or lesser frequency, and will ultimately subside, women have to develop coping strategies. A number of websites have great suggestions on how to cope with this issue.

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