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Hot Flushes - Menopause, or Something Else?

Hot Flushes - Menopause, or Something Else?

Hot flushes are an unfortunate symptom of menopause, but they can have other causes. Here's the lowdown.

Lifestyle insight
Reading time: 2 minutes

What are hot flushes? 

Hot flushes, or hot flashes, are exactly what you probably think they are: a rapid onset of heat or warmth, sometimes accompanied by sweating and a red face that gives you a ‘flushed’ appearance. Flushes can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes at a time. As the flush subsides you might feel cold and experience a faster heart rate.

Hot flushes can be caused by hormonal changes, as well as changes in the way your body regulates its temperature.

Hot flushes and menopause

Hot flushes are often a symptom of menopause, or perimenopause.

Menopause is the time when your body gradually stops menstruating. Most women experience this in their late forties, but there can be great variation, with some women not reaching this point until their late fifties. Menopausal symptoms, including hot flushes, can carry on for many years after menopause has occurred.

Perimenopause is the transitional period before menopause, in which women’s bodies prepare to cease menstruation.  This usually happens 1-2 years before menopause begins, but can occur up to ten years beforehand. It’s possible to experience typical menopause symptoms throughout perimenopause as well as menopause.

Non-menopausal causes of hot flushes

While most people think of menopause when they hear the term ‘hot flushes’, there are a variety of other reasons why you may be feeling red-faced, sweaty and overheated:

  • Food – consuming alcohol or any of a number of hot or spicy foods, as may cause hot flushes, so it’s a good idea to assess your diet and cut out any of these substances for a while to see if there is any difference in your symptoms
  • Stress - increased stress can cause physical symptoms that are similar to hot flushes, including sweating and an increased heart rate
  • Fever - certain illnesses and fevers can cause your body temperature to increase, creating symptoms similar to hot flushes
  • Chronic health conditions - hot flushes can be a side effect of some diseases and even certain medications

Managing hot flushes

If you are experiencing hot flushes, you should always discuss your symptoms with your healthcare professional, who will be able to diagnose your condition and confirm whether your symptoms are menopause-related or caused by another issue.

If your menopausal hot flushes are mild, you may be able to reduce their severity or impact with some lifestyle changes.

  • Modify your diet – cutting down on hot drinks, spicy foods, and alcohol may help reduce your hot flushes
  • Keep cool – dressing in layers, sleeping in cool dark room, and showering just before bed may help regulate your body temperature
  • Quit smoking – smokers are thought to experience more hut flushes than non-smokers, so if you smoke try to cut down and eventually quit (phone Quitline on 13 78 48). 

When to visit your healthcare professional

Generally, hot flushes shouldn’t be ignored. It’s important to visit your healthcare professional if you think you’re experiencing hot flushes, particularly if they are increasing in severity or duration. There may be an underlying health concern responsible for your symptoms.

References available upon request.

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