Cold flashes? You’ve heard of hot flashes, maybe even experienced the sudden flaring of intense heat that starts in your chest and rushes up into your face. But were you aware that hormone changes can also cause cold flashes?
Yes, that’s right, cold flashes!
If you’re suddenly chilled and shivering, even in a warm room, you may be experiencing a cold flash.
Much like hot flashes, cold flashes are likely caused by hormone havoc in your head. As estrogen levels drop, the hypothalamus—the part of your brain responsible for regulating your body temperature—gets overactive, releasing chemicals that alert your body it’s overheating. The body sheds heat, whether you want it to or not, and voilà! Cold flash. Cue the hot chocolate.
Although they’re rarer than the typical hot flash up to 80% of women will experience, cold flashes are no less disruptive, especially at night.
As usual, we recommend making some lifestyle changes first, before turning to outside intervention. Often, our dietary, exercise, and behavioral choices can mean the difference between comfort and chaos.
Personally, I love it when people tell me to calm down. It’s just so effective and helpful. </sarcasm> But honestly, calm down. Anxiety can cause cold flashes or make them worse. And since women in perimenopause and menopause are more prone to anxiety, between an overactive hypothalamus and a hyper-alert central nervous system, women can spend an awful lot of time just trying to be comfortable. Deep breathing exercises and meditation can help calm you and reduce the severity and duration of all kinds of flashes.
Sugar, caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, and nicotine all can trigger hot and cold flashes or make them worse.
Although the weather and what you eat and drink may have little or no bearing on if you have a hot or cold flash, they can make having one more uncomfortable, so wear layers. If you experience a hot flash that causes you to sweat, change clothes or pjs immediately to get the moisture away from your body, as that can trigger the shiver. (Hint: moisture-wicking bedding and pajamas can make this a whole lot easier.)
Exercise or just moving around, which may sound like the worst thing ever, is really beneficial during a cold flash. You need to get the blood flowing to extremities like hands and feet.
Cold flashes can last hours or longer, so understand that remedies may take time to have any effect. Also, sometimes the things we do to survive a cold flash can actually trigger a hot flash, so make your accommodations gradually – drink warm things instead of hot things, pile on one blanket instead of ten, don’t crank the fireplace up to eleven.
If lifestyle adaptations don’t do the trick, hormone replacement therapy, anti-depressants, or low-dose birth control pills may be able to help.
If you’re having disruptive cold flashes, a trip to the doc isn’t a bad idea. Poor blood circulation, thyroid dysfunction, anemia, and low blood sugar all can cause cold flashes and can be more serious than a typical hormonal imbalance due to menopause.
Like so much about menopause, the severity of your symptoms (or at least the perceived severity) can depend a lot on your attitude and approach. This is not to say if you’re not cheerful and giggling through a 3 am personal cold front, you’re a failure – but it does mean you may have more control than you know.
*The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. If you’re concerned about your symptoms, please go to the doctor.
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