Picture this: You’re in the middle of a work meeting when suddenly your heart starts pounding, your skin is on fire, and you break out in a full-body sweat. You glance around nervously to see if your co-workers have noticed, your mind racing with possible explanations.
Did I mention that I ran to work today?
Oh, that’s not sweat, that’s a dewy glow from my new foundation makeup.
Is it hot in here, or was that PowerPoint presentation on fire?
Hot flashes can strike any time, anywhere, and without mercy. They’re super common (75 percent of women experience them), but that makes them no less embarrassing.
Even worse, the internet is full of misleading information when it comes to hot flashes and their treatment. Read more as we get to the bottom of some of the biggest myths and questions about hot flashes and menopause.
1. Are hot flashes the beginning of menopause?
Yes. Hot flashes are most common during perimenopause, the menopause transition that happens several years before menopause begins when estrogen levels start to drop. For most women, perimenopause begins in their 40s, but some women experience it earlier in their 30s. This transitional period is different for every woman. On average, it lasts about four years, but some women only experience it for a few months.
2. Do they happen only during perimenopause?
No. Hot flashes can happen at other times, for a plethora of other reasons. For one, any medical issue related to your hormones or endocrine system could result in hot flashes. Anxiety, allergies, and even some medications could have side effects that include hot flashes. Your doctor can help you rule out other causes if you aren’t going through menopause.
3. Are they the only symptom of menopause?
No, they are just one of the many symptoms women experience during menopause. Other symptoms include sleeplessness, vaginal dryness, mood changes, weight gain, and more. Of course, these symptoms vary for each person.
4. Is black cohosh an effective treatment?
We hate to break it to you, but this one is of the biggest menopause myths of all. There is no proof that black cohosh works for treating hot flashes or any other menopause symptoms, for that matter. Black cohosh is cleverly marketed to menopausal women, so it’s become known as a natural cure for menopause symptoms. Here are the facts:
One study revealed that black cohosh was no more effective than a placebo for relieving women of their symptoms. There is no concrete evidence that it has any effect on women experiencing hot flashes.
Another issue is that black cohosh isn’t regulated by the FDA, so there’s no way of knowing how much black cohosh is actually in any given bottle — or if it contains any at all.
Finally, black cohosh could have dangerous side effects, including liver damage. So the next time you pass through the herbal supplements aisle, take a hard pass on the black cohosh.
5. Can I use apple cider vinegar for hot flashes?
If you were to believe everything the internet has told us about apple cider vinegar lately, you’d be convinced that it will give you superhuman powers and create world peace. Though apple cider vinegar might not be a magical cure-all, it does have some legitimate health benefits. Some say it improves insulin sensitivity and can help reduce blood sugar. Others say that apple cider vinegar can help with weight loss by making you feel fuller longer.
But what about hot flashes? While some women swear by it, the truth is that there is no substantial medical evidence that apple cider vinegar alleviates this problem.
6. Are hot flashes and night sweats the same?
The only difference between hot flashes and night sweats is that night sweats happen — you guessed it — at night, while you’re sleeping. But night sweats present their own set of problems. In addition to waking up drenched in sweat, you can experience a severely disrupted sleeping patterns if you get them often enough.
There are some steps you can take alleviate night sweats, like keeping a low temperature and good air circulation in your bedroom, as well as investing in moisture-wicking pajamas. However, if your night sweats are leading to sleep deprivation, see your doctor to discuss other treatment.
7. How can I get rid of them?
The bad news? Some women experience the symptoms of menopause and hot flashes for four years (or more). The good news? There are a few ways you can potentially prevent and treat hot flashes. A few triggers include caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods (aka everything that is fun). Keeping cool and wearing lightweight, breathable fabrics can potentially fend them off.
WebMD recommends deep abdominal breathing for 15 minutes in the morning, in the evening, and when you feel a hot flash coming on. Many women have had success with meditation, yoga, and other forms of exercise. Of course, if your hot flashes are severe and begin interrupting your everyday life, it’s always best to check in with your doctor.