What Are Cold Flashes & Why Do They Occur?

What Are Cold Flashes?

Hot Flashes is a term that is not uncommon and many even experience it where there is intense heat that starts in the chest and radiates upwards towards the face. However, Cold Flashes is a term that is not commonly heard but is caused due to certain hormonal changes. It causes a person to experience episodes of sudden onset of chills and shivering. Aside from hormonal fluctuations, there is also an emotional element as to why some people experience these episodes of cold flashes[1, 2].

If someone experiences sudden onset of chills and cold which does not relent even when buried under warm blankets or a heated room then in all probability that person is experiencing Cold Flashes. These episodes at times can follow an episode of hot flashes or become worse in a hot and damp environment[1, 2]. This article highlights the causes of Cold Flashes and ways to deal with it.

Why Do Cold Flashes Occur?

As stated, above Cold Flashes are caused due to changes in certain hormone levels. Hormonal changes caused due to panic attacks and anxiety disorders are believed to be the primary cause. The body temperature is controlled by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. Cold Flashes occur when certain hormones affect the ability of the hypothalamus to regulate the body temperature[1].

Panic and Anxiety Attacks: During a panic attack, the body starts reacting to increased levels of hormones causing a variety of physical and psychological symptoms. This is because the body activates flight or fight response in response to a perceived threat. Cold flashes are one of the symptoms that can be observed during an anxiety or panic attack. This is because the hormones cortisol and adrenaline that are released during an anxiety attack affect the ability of the hypothalamus to regulate body temperature[1].

Menopause: This is one of the most common causes of Cold Flashes. Menopause causes a variety of hormonal changes due to which a female stops having her menstrual periods and loses the ability to get pregnant. A female reaches menopause around the age of 50. Studies reflect that around 70% of females who attain menopause tend to have vasomotor symptoms like Cold Flashes along with palpitations and even migraine headaches[1].

The cold flashes occur shortly after an episode of a hot flash which is quite common in menopausal females. This is because the body reacts to the sweat and increase in body temperature during a hot flash episode[1].

Pregnancy: There is not clear link between Cold Flashes and pregnancy but some females have complained of it immediately after delivery. This in medical terms is called as postpartum chills. It causes sudden intense shivering. Experts believe that these Cold Flashes occur as a result of the fetal blood being transferred to the mother during delivery[2].

How To Deal With Cold Flashes?

Cold Flashes can be successfully dealt with by making some lifestyle changes like changing eating habits, exercising regularly, and avoiding alcohol and nicotine abuse. To deal with anxiety and panic attacks, practicing deep breathing, yoga, and meditation are quite effective. If there is no respite from anxiety attacks, then a consultation with a psychiatrist and psychologist is recommended who can prescribe medications to control anxiety[1, 2].

If a person is prone to Cold Flashes then it is advised that such people prepare for it in advance. It is always better to wear warm clothing. In case if a person has an episode of hot flashes and sweats because of it then it is recommended to change the clothes immediately to prevent Cold Flashes from occurring. It is also beneficial to keep the body moving during Cold Flashes to keep the circulation of the blood flowing to the extremities[1, 2].

Some people have found magnesium supplement at bedtime to be quite effective during periods of Cold Flashes. This is because magnesium helps with anxiety and promotes sleep. However, it is always better to speak to the physician before starting any medication or supplement[1, 2].

For people who find lifestyle changes ineffective, then they may have to undergo hormonal replacement therapy aside from antidepressants and anxiolytics to control the episodes of Cold Flashes. It is always better to consult a physician of Cold Flashes become too frequent and start interfering with a person’s personal and professional life[1, 2].

In conclusion, Cold Flashes may be an uncommon term when compared to Hot Flashes whichare quite common. However, Cold Flashes occur as a result of hormonal changes which affect the hypothalamus which is the area of brain that regulates body temperature. The most common cause of Cold Flashes is panic attacks and anxiety in which cortisol and adrenaline is released by the adrenal gland which interferes with the functioning of the hypothalamus causing Cold Flashes. These episodes cause intense chills and shivers and can be very discomforting for the person[1, 2].

At times, Cold Flashes also start affecting the daily life which is when it is recommended to consult with a physician to get to the bottom of the cause and start treatment.

Certain lifestyle modifications like exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and doing yoga and meditation are also quite effective in managing Cold Flashes[1, 2].

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