What is the Connection Between Hot Flashes and Headaches?

3 minute read

By: Sheryl Kraft|Last updated: May 10, 2022
Medically reviewed by: Sharon D. Malone

Love and marriage. Salt and pepper. Sweet and salty.

Hot flashes and headaches?

Like all the others, hot flashes and headaches can occur together. Does that mean you’ll get a headache every time you get a hot flash? Fortunately, no. Sometimes a hot flash… is just a hot flash.

But other times, a headache will hitch a ride to your hot flash. And when that happens, severe hot flashes become more than just bothersome. They can cause pain.

What does a hot flash feel like?

·  You suddenly feel an intense heat that usually begins in your face, making its way down to your neck and chest (and sometimes beyond).

·  Your skin may become flushed (similar to blushing, only you’re not blushing. You’re hot.)

·  You’ll likely sweat. A lot. But how much varies with each person and with each hot flash.

·  If you sweat a lot, you may become chilled afterwards, as your body’s thermostat struggles to regulate itself.  You’re also sopping wet which isn’t great in 30 degree weather.

·  Some hot flashes last a minute or so, while others can dig in their heels and hang around for as long as five minutes.

·  Hot flashes can happen any time of day or night (that’s when they go by the name of night sweats).

·  Hot flashes, on average, continue for about 7 years, although one study published in JAMA found that some women report them lasting for as long as 14 years.

Great.

AW181 What is the Connection Between Hot Flashes and Headaches? (Blonde Asian Woman in bathrobe and towel turban with red painted nails covering face.)

Hot Flashes and Headaches: The Culprit is the Same

The common headache has many causes: stress, muscle tension, hunger, sleep deprivation, alcohol and certain foods. But when headaches come with hot flashes, hormone levels are the enemy.

Think back to the days of good old PMS. Before or during menstrual periods, did you get a severe headache? If so, that isn’t unusual. Headaches, particularly a migraine headache , are linked to female hormones. (It’s one reason why women are more prone to migraines than men). Research has found that declining levels of estrogen to be the cause of that menstrual migraine or headache.

Hmmm… declining estrogen levels. Sound familiar? It’s the familiar song of menopause.

Hence, the rise in hormone-related menopause headaches for some women, especially those who experienced them during their menstrual cycle. Changes in estrogen levels are one of the most common triggers of headaches, according to the National Headache Foundation.

But there’s a silver lining: Once hormone levels stabilize and menopause symptoms have passed, these headaches will improve, say experts.

What You Can Do For Your Hot Flashes

A cruel twist of fate: If your hot flashes begin earlier in your life, they will hang around longer. That’s enough to give you a headache!

But managing your hot flashes with some easy lifestyle changes should also help manage the headaches that might occur along with them. Here’s how:

Be aware of triggers. These differ for everyone, but the most common hot flash triggers are caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol, heat, anxiety, stress and constricting clothing.

Dress in layers. This way, when a hot flash strikes, and you’re tempted to play strip poker, you can maintain your dignity.

Carry a portable fan. Many manufacturers have caught on to the fact that 75 percent of women get hot flashes and could use some assistance, and are producing fans small enough to discreetly whip out when a hot flash strikes.

Keep your weight in check. Studies find that overweight and obese women suffer more from hot flashes than thinner women. One likely reason? Their body fat inhibits the release of heat.

Don’t smoke. And if you do smoke, please quit (for many obvious reasons). As far as hot flashes go, smokers have a higher risk of suffering more severe hot flashes.

Try socks at bedtime. Because wearing socks cools your core body temperature, it may help reduce hot flashes. (Worth a try, no?)

Keep your bedroom cool. Aside from helping you sleep better, a cool bedroom can help decrease night sweats and aid in any sleep disturbance. Experts suggest the best temperature to be approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

AW182 What is the Connection Between Hot Flashes and Headaches? (woman at table stirring cup of hot coffee)

Diving Headfirst Into Hot Flashes and Headaches

If your hot flashes still bring on headaches, it’s time to manage that hormone headache along with the hot flash. Get started by considering these approaches:

Prescription medications. Speak with your healthcare provider to explore your many options, which might include gabapentin, venlafaxine, or paroxetine.

Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen and others.

Relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, acupuncture, massage or biofeedback.

Don’t skip meals.

Try to get eight hours of sleep each night.

Stay hydrated with six to eight glasses of water daily.

Stay active; strive for 30 minutes of exercise each day.

Listen to your body and it will help you help your head. And if it’s time to consult a health care practitioner, Alloy can help. Click here to get connected to a specialist and get your menopause symptoms under control today.

Sources:

  1. "Hot flashes". Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hot-flashes/symptoms-causes/syc-20352790

  2. "Hot flashes - symptom s and causes". Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hot-flashes/symptoms-causes/syc-20352790#:~:text=On%20average%2C%20hot%20flash%20symptoms,for%20more%20than%2010%20years.

  3. Silberstein, S D. “Sex hormones and headache.” Revue neurologique vol. 156 Suppl 4 (2000): 4S30-41.

  4. Pavlović, Jelena M. “Evaluation and management of migraine in midlife women.” Menopause (New York, N.Y.) vol. 25,8 (2018): 927-929. doi:10.1097/GME.0000000000001104

  5. Ripa, Patrizia et al. “Migraine in menopausal women: a systematic review.” International journal of women's health vol. 7 773-82. 20 Aug. 2015, doi:10.2147/IJWH.S70073

  6. "Menopause: Non-Hormonal Treatment & Relief for Hot Flashes". Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15223-menopause-non-hormonal-treatment--relief-for-hot-flashes

  7. "Hot Flashes: What Can I Do?". National Institute of Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hot-flashes-what-can-i-do

  8. Gallicchio, Lisa et al. “Change in body mass index, weight, and hot flashes: a longitudinal analysis from the midlife women's health study.” Journal of women's health (2002) vol. 23,3 (2014): 231-7. doi:10.1089/jwh.2013.4526

  9. Danielle Pacheco. "The Best Temperature for Sleep". Sleep Foundation. June 24, 2021. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/best-temperature-for-sleep

  10. Lauritsen, Clinton G et al. “Current Treatment Options: Headache Related to Menopause-Diagnosis and Management.” Current treatment options in neurology vol. 20,4 7. 6 Mar. 2018, doi:10.1007/s11940-018-0492-7

  11. "Headache: When to worry, what to do". Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/headache-when-to-worry-what-to-do

  12. "Headaches". University of California. https://uhs.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/HeadachesMigraines.pdf

  13. "Headache Medicine". Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/9652-headache-medications

  14. "Introduction to Menopause". Johns Hopkins. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/introduction-to-menopause#:~:text=Hot%20flashes&text=About%2075%25%20of%20all%20women,for%202%20years%20or%20less.

 

Written by:

Sheryl Kraft

Sheryl Kraft is a seasoned freelance health writer, who writes, and is passionate about, healthy aging, wellness, fitness, nutrition and just about anything related to improving our lifestyle and personal health. Her work has been published widely in print and online outlets, including AARP, Parade, Family Circle, Weight Watchers, Spry, Prevention, WebMD, Everyday Health and many more. Sheryl lives in Fairfield County, CT., with husband Alan and new puppy Annie, and is the mother of two grown sons, Jonathan and Jeremy.

Medically reviewed by:

Sharon D. Malone

Dr. Sharon Malone is among the nation’s leading obstetrician / gynecologists with a focus on the specific health challenges associated with menopause.