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Are Premenopausal Cold Flashes a Thing?

A women’s health specialist explains those cold flashes that come on quickly

woman wearing socks to bed

If you’re over the age of 35 and you’ve been having sudden cold flashes either right before bed or in the middle of the night, you’re probably asking yourself a series of questions to explain them.

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Why am I getting cold flashes?

No, the window isn’t open and nope, the A/C didn’t just kick on. You’re not feeling sick, and it feels different than the chills you feel when you are sick.

You may also think, “I’ve heard about hot flashes and menopause, but are cold flashes a thing?”

“Hot flashes are more common, but the answer is yes, cold flashes are also very much a thing for women before or during menopause,” women’s health specialist Holly L. Thacker, MD, says.

What happens during a cold flash?

While your circadian rhythm normally makes you feel a bit cooler at night, cold flashes can be a manifestation of temperature instability — a very common occurrence for women during their midlife.

During the day, you’re likely engaging in more physical activity and less likely to experience cold flashes, but they can happen occasionally then, too.​

Yes, it’s mostly because of your hormones.

“During midlife your hormones are fluctuating. With fluctuating hormones your brain’s internal thermostat becomes more sensitive. This means you may suddenly notice feeling either hot or cold sensations,” Dr. Thacker says.

It’s that inability of the body to regulate temperature at these times that causes your temperature to decrease or increase quickly.

What can I do if I’m getting cold flashes?

Cold flashes most commonly run their course fairly quickly and usually pass in a few minutes at most. But in some cases they can last up to 20 minutes.

“While they aren’t intolerable, they also aren’t pleasant,” Dr. Thacker says. “The good news is there are many things you can do to manage them.”

  1. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed: Both can disrupt your body’s normal thermoregulatory systems (those that help regulate your core temperature).
  2. Limit sugar, spicy foods and nicotine: These can also make your body’s temperature regulation irregular.
  3. Participate in regular exercise: Try a regular exercise routine that balances weight-bearing, aerobic and breathing exercises — all of which can keep your body and mind active and consequently help reduce stress and anxiety. This is important since women in perimenopause and menopause are more prone to anxiety.
  4. Wear socks to bed: This keeps your feet warm while both preventing and treating cold flash symptoms at night.

Are there medical treatments for cold flashes?

Hormonal and nonhormonal options are also available to help with general temperature instability,” Dr. Thacker says. “Make sure you talk to your women’s health specialist to discuss options that may be right for you.”

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