Those who suffer from hot flashes feel a feeling of heat out of the blue, especially in the chest, head or neck, which spreads through the body. Those affected find this uncomfortable. It can last from half a minute to several minutes, and there is often a sweat break, occasionally a slight shiver or a feeling of exhaustion.
Such hot flashes often occur during menopause, but they can also trigger external influences. This includes alcohol consumption as well as the consumption of spicy dishes. Chili in particular is as famous as it is notorious for causing a feeling of heat.
In menopause, the cause is a change in hormone levels. The production of estrogen is declining, which in addition to hot flashes leads to sleep disorders, increased irritability and dry mucous membranes. Around 8 in 10 menopausal women show these symptoms.
Depression and allergies
But hot flashes can also have many other causes, such as depression. Depression causes cognitive, psychomotor and other dysfunctions such as exhaustion, lack of concentration, loss of sexual desire, restrictions in almost all occupations, sleep disorders and a feeling of depression. Those affected feel guilty and lose their appetite. Some people who suffer from depression show hot flashes irregularly.
Hot flashes can also be a symptom of an allergy. Those who are allergic to insect bites, for example, feel heat waves all over their bodies - the area around the puncture also heats up, blushes and swells up a lot.
Sugar and hormones
Cold flare-ups are typical for hypoglycaemia in diabetics. Anti-hormone therapies can also trigger hot flashes, for example with some cancer therapies. Carcinoid syndrome, caused by a serotonin-producing tumor, also leads to hot flashes. Diarrhea and red spots on the face are other possible symptoms here. Last but not least, histamine intolerance also leads to hot flashes in histamine-rich foods (cheese, red wine, chocolate, canned fish, etc.).
The doctor should first have an intensive conversation with the patient to get an overview of the symptoms. After that, he can roughly assess what could be the cause of the complaints. A physical examination followed, which usually clarifies the cause.
If the patient is in the menopause and insomnia and mild irritability are among the symptoms, then it is suspected that the hot flashes have hormonal causes. A blood test determines the hormone levels and thus gives certainty. The doctor then decides whether hormone replacement therapy is appropriate. However, if menopause can be excluded as the cause, other studies are required.
Depending on the possible disease (diabetes, thyroid, etc.), blood tests can be used to determine the thyroid and blood sugar values, allergy tests, ultrasound examinations, gastrointestinal mirroring.
If the hot flashes are a symptom of an illness, the basic illness must be combated. If medication is the cause, then switching to another preparation often helps. Here, however, the doctor has to weigh up the severity of the hot flashes and the need for medication: Cancer therapy cannot be discontinued. Those affected are better advised to concentrate on self-help means to alleviate the symptoms.
If you suffer from hot flashes and sweats, you can prevent this in several ways.
- Through clothes. Always wear several pieces of clothing on top of each other. After a sweat breakout, you can take off individual items of clothing without sitting in your underpants.
- Wear breathable clothing. The absorbent cotton is well suited, but also modern materials for the outdoor area.
- Avoid sweaty foods. The rule of thumb is that what tastes hot and hot promotes hot flashes.
- Avoid alcohol and nicotine.
- Make changing showers regularly.
- Relieve stress, for example in the form of yoga or autogenic training.
- Exercise a lot in the fresh air.
- A major cause of hot flashes is obesity. So if you are both sweating excessively and are overweight, then you should try to reduce your weight.
- Use herbal products that work against heat waves. These include yarrow, lady's mantle, red clover, sage, fennel and St. John's wort. American black cohosh is considered the best herbal remedy.
- Acupuncture can also be very helpful because, from a traditional Chinese perspective, it is ascending heat because there is too little yin to balance the yang. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- B. Mark Evers: Carcinoid Syndrome, MSD Manual, (accessed September 6, 2019), MSD
- Internists online: Hidden Depression, Professional Association of German Internists e. V. (BDI), (accessed on September 6, 2019), internists-in-the-network
- JoAnn V. Pinkerton: Menopause, MSD Manual, (accessed September 6, 2019), MSD
- Robert Kopf: Menopause menopause: Treating menopausal symptoms with homeopathy, Schuessler salts and naturopathy, 2017
ICD codes for this disease: N95.1ICD codes are internationally valid encryption codes for medical diagnoses. You can find e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.