When you’re on the road to menopause, hot flashes may be a common occurrence — even multiple times per day. They’re not pleasant, that’s for sure. But can they actually make you feel sick?
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Ob/Gyn and Certified Menopause Practitioner Claudia Mason, MD, says it’s possible to feel nauseated in connection with a hot flash, but it’s very uncommon. Here’s what to know about hot flashes and nausea, including when to connect with your healthcare provider for a deeper dive into what’s going on.
Can hot flashes cause nausea?
Nausea isn’t really a symptom of hot flashes — but anxiety is, and nausea can be a symptom of anxiety. That means that a hot flash could make you feel anxious, which could, in turn, make you feel nauseated.
It’s not a common symptom of hot flashes, but it’s not unheard of, either.
“Anxiety, in general, increases slightly during the menopausal transition,” Dr. Mason says, “and sometimes, it just feels socially embarrassing to have a hot flash in front of somebody else, which can cause anxiety.”
One study found that women with high anxiety were five times more likely to experience hot flashes than those in the “normal anxiety range.” And nausea is common during bouts of anxiety — so it stands to reason that if your hot flashes trigger your anxiety, your anxiety could then trigger feelings of nausea.
Other symptoms that accompany hot flashes
Menopausal hot flashes come on suddenly, usually starting with a feeling of intense heat in your torso or chest that quickly rises to your neck and face. Symptoms often include:
- Flushing and redness: “The blood vessels dilate in your chest and face to try to release the heat,” Dr. Mason explains, “which can turn your face bright red.”
- Sweating: Sweat is your body’s way of trying to cool itself down.
- Rapid heartbeat: Changing hormone levels can cause your heart to beat faster.
- Feeling anxious: In general, menopause is associated with changes in mood, including depression and anxiety. Add on the fact that you may feel embarrassed or upset when you have a hot flash, and you can end up feeling intensely anxious both while it’s happening and afterward.
After a hot flash, you might feel a bit of a chill as sweat evaporates from your body.
What causes you to feel sick after a hot flash?
On the whole, Dr. Mason says it’s important to note that most people don’t feel sick after a hot flash. In most people, they pass just as quickly as they come on.
“They’re quite literally a flash,” she says. “The heat comes from the chest, moves up to your head and then, pretty quickly dissipates.”
You could feel a little, well, gross afterward, especially if you’re suddenly very sweaty at a time when you wouldn’t typically be. It’s OK to excuse yourself so that you can gather your composure and freshen up, if you need to!
But if anxiety is something you already struggle with, the anxious feelings that can accompany a hot flash may make you feel nauseated and slightly unwell afterward. Nausea can be a symptom of an anxiety disorder, and stress nausea, as it’s called, can even cause vomiting (though that’s not a common side effect of hot flashes).
Other reasons you might feel nausea with hot flashes
A little post-hot flash nausea once in a while probably isn’t anything to worry about. But if it happens regularly, make an appointment with a healthcare provider to be sure nothing else is at play.
“If your body is sending a lot of blood to your face during a hot flash, theoretically you could feel a little bit of nausea or even dizziness,” Dr. Mason says, “but for the most part, I don’t hear patients complain about those things.”
Hot flashes can also be a symptom of:
- Thyroid disease.
- Carcinoid syndrome.
- Cancer treatment.
- Side effects of certain medications (including some that are used to help manage menopause symptoms).
If you suspect that your hot flash-induced nausea is related to anxiety — whether in general or specific as it relates to menopause — that’s also a cause for a conversation with your healthcare provider.
“Nausea isn’t typical of a menopausal hot flash,” Dr. Mason reiterates, “so if you’re experiencing it, it’s important to figure out what else is going on.”