Menopause, Hot Flashes

hot flash, menoupauseHow 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. Every woman will experience different perimenopause and menopause symptoms, so don’t worry, you are not alone! Most women experience hot flashes during perimenopause and menopause; however, knowing this fact does not necessarily 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 our estrogen/progesterone balance changes. These fluctuations are typically thought to be the causes of hot flash symptoms - aka annoying bouts of extreme heat! Recognizing how hot flashes affect you personally is a great start toward finding relief.

Some hot flash symptoms arrive as a sudden rush of heat that may quickly subside - so hot that your face may actually become flushed. 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.

Take my friend Lisa, age 53, for example, who has a sexy new boyfriend. After one passionate night, Lisa curled up in his arms, dozed off, and then suddenly felt hot - as she puts it, “I know I’m ‘hot,’ but I also felt like I had a really bad sunburn.” The bed was soaking wet.  Lisa jumped out of bed, thinking she had urinated in her sleep. How was she going to explain this to her new boyfriend? It took her a few minutes to realize what had actually transpired (or should I say perspired). In the morning she told him about the incident and they discussed it openly. I’m so proud of them both for talking it out and not letting Lisa’s night sweats get in the way of their new and exciting relationship!

Thankfully, these sweaty episodes typically decrease over time as you go through the perimenopause stage and into post menopause. Still, there are a few hot flash symptom triggers that can affect the intensity, frequency and duration that you should know about. If you’re battling hot flashes on a daily basis, 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 Replacement Therapy to be a tremendous help. Talk to your doctor about your options and what’s best for you and your body.

Whether you flash, flush, or sweat, it doesn’t mean you should suffer in silence. Recognizing your own hot flash symptoms is the first step to feeling better. It may take some time to figure out what works best for you to alleviate them, but trust me it’s worth the effort.


"E" is the pen name of Ellen Sarver Dolgen, author of Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness, a light-hearted, informative, easy-to-read book on menopause, and creator of, a resource treasure trove for women going through perimenopause and menopause.

Dynamic Living Magazine Issue Vol. 2  March/April 2011 The End