When Hot Flashes Leave You Cold

First, you’re burning hot. It might feel like someone lit a furnace deep inside you. The heat then triggers symptoms including a red face, profuse sweating, and a desire to stand in the snow in your underwear. Then, without warning, you can find yourself shivering with cold. The chills may cause your teeth to chatter and stir up a longing for a cottage in the Sahara Desert. You can feel like your internal thermostat has gone completely haywire and it’s leaving you miserable and frustrated. Welcome to menopause.

Although it’s ironic, hot flashes can also leave you shivering with cold. And that’s not what you need when you’re already soaked in sweat from the sudden burst of heat. In the end, you might feel like you’ve caught the flu.

It’s not the flu.

As miserable as you may feel during a hot flash, it’s not the flu and you don’t have a fever. Your menopausal brain, however, is all mixed up and thinks you’re too hot. That triggers a reaction to get your body to cooldown. Your heart rate increases and the blood vessels under the skin dilate to try to circulate more blood to release heat from your body. Sweat glands also kick in and start producing enough sweat to cool your skin down.

But I wasn’t hot!

Since you weren’t really hot to begin with, your body’s attempt to cool you off can backfire. Your body temperature may become too low, and being soaked in sweat only makes things worse. Once your body thinks it needs to warm up, it can start sending out new instructions. Those can trigger shivering and chills, movements that your body hopes will raise your temperature.

Why does this happen?

All this temperature craziness is because of estrogen, or lack thereof. Your internal thermostat needs estrogen to work properly, but levels decrease with menopause. When estrogen is low, your thermostat, or hypothalamus, becomes less accurate. You can also become extra sensitive to temperature changes. The end result is that at random times your hypothalamus thinks you’re hot when you’re not and then unnecessarily tries to cool you down.

What can I do?

Staying cool can prevent some hot flashes that are followed by cold flashes. Some tricks for being cool are lowering the thermostat, sitting under a fan, and dressing in breathable layers. Skip the hot tubs and saunas, take cooler showers, and avoid hot places. You should also learn to recognize the things that trigger hot flashes for you. For example, spicy foods and hot beverages can trick your body into thinking you’re hotter than you are. Alcohol and caffeine are also triggers, as is stress and anxiety.

You should also talk to your doctor. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or other medications and supplements may be helpful for preventing and managing hot flashes. You can also make some lifestyle changes, try some home remedies, and keep a symptom diary to learn your personal triggers.

This content was written by staff of HysterSisters.com by non-medical professionals based on discussions, resources and input from other patients for the purpose of patient-to-patient support.  Reprinted with permission: When Hot Flashes Leave You Cold

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