Facing the heat: What’s the cause of your hot flashes?

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By Jennifer Arnhold, GYN, Embrace Women’s Health Clinic in Baxter


Soon, the Dog Days of summer will be upon us, when the heat reaches its peak and Minnesotans rush to experience the last freedom of the season.

But with the high temperature can come unexpected, intense waves of bodily heat called hot flashes. These are sudden sensations of warmth due to the widening of the blood vessels near the surface of your skin, most prominent across your face, neck and chest.

Though warm weather can be a cause of hot flashes, it’s only one of many. Here are some others:

Girl with hot flashes has face cooling in front of a fan.


When a woman begins to enter menopause, her estrogen levels decrease. It is this decrease that we believe is the cause of menopausal hot flashes.



Hot flashes are a side effect of many common prescription medications, such as opioids or antidepressants. If your symptoms coincide with the start of a new medication, it’s likely that it could be the culprit. Let your provider know. Sometimes, your body can acclimate to the medication, or your provider may be able to switch you to a different drug.



Women who are overweight have a significantly higher risk of experiencing hot flashes. Extra body fat changes your metabolism, which can promote hot flashes. Losing even 10 pounds can reduce your risk considerably.



In particular, spicy food such as red chili, cayenne and hot mustard can raise your body’s temperature, triggering a hot flash. Alcohol and caffeine are also another known cause. Caffeine speeds up your heart rate and makes your blood vessels dilate. However, hot flashes could also trigger if you have an allergy or intolerance to certain foods. Pay attention to how your body reacts when you eat, and you may find the source of your hot flashes.


Stress or anxietyStressed girl suffering from hot flashes refreshing with a fan sitting on a couch in the living room at home.

Stress and anxiety can both manifest as a racing heart, fidgeting or shallow breathing. When this happens, your body may respond with a hot flash. A helpful method of easing these feelings is to practice breathing exercises by taking deep, slow breaths.


Medical conditions

Hot flashes could be a symptom associated with a number of medical conditions, especially involving your hormones or endocrine system. If a medical condition other than menopause is indeed to blame for your hot flashes, you may experience other symptoms. Talk to your provider if you do.


Night sweats

At night, your body temperature naturally fluctuates while you sleep, which is what causes some to wake up sweaty or feeling overheated. This may be a result of sleeping with too many blankets or keeping the room too warm. Instead, make sure your bedroom is cool, and sleep with layers that can be adjusted throughout the night.



Not only do cigarettes reduce your lung capacity but they are also linked to hot flashes. Women who smoke are significantly more likely to experience intense hot flashes. You may want to consider quitting to lower your risk of hot flashes, as well as other serious health conditions.


Eight do’s and don’ts of tornado safety

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By: Mike Ittner, NR, Paramedic, TCHC Emergency Preparedness Coordinator

Summer. What a wonderful time of the year! Grass and flowers are growing, and the Minnesota state bird, the mosquito, is back in full force. Not only that but summer brings about the Minnesota tornado season.

This season runs from early spring well into fall, as warm moisture comes in from the Gulf of Mexico and clashes with colder, drier air. The only months during which a tornado has never touched down in Minnesota are December, January and February. tornado warning sign

To recognize a tornado, FEMA suggests looking for these danger signs:

  • Dark, greenish sky
  • Large hail
  • A large, low-lying cloud, particularly if rotating
  • Loud roar, similar to a freight train

If you find yourself caught in a tornado emergency, follow these do’s and don’ts so that you will know how to react calmly and stay safe in each situation.


  1. House – with basement

DO: Get to the basement and shield yourself with sturdy protection such as a heavy table or work bench, or use a mattress or blankets.

DON’T: Sit in the basement where heavy objects like a piano or refrigerator rest on the floor above. They could fall through the floor if it’s weakened by the storm.


  1. House – without basement

DO: Go to a stairwell or interior hallway without windows and crouch as low as possible. Cover yourself with a mattress or blankets.

DON’T: Stand near windows or other glass objects.


  1. Mobile home

DO: Get out as quickly as possible and find a shelter or lie flat on low ground away from trees and cars, protecting your head.

DON’T: Stay in the mobile home, even if it is tied down, as most tornadoes can destroy mobile homes that are tied down.


  1. Apartment, dorm or condo

DO: Go to the lowest level and move away from windows. In a high-rise building, find a hallway or stairwell in the center of the building.

DON’T: Take shelter in an elevator. Power may be lost, trapping you inside.


  1. Office building or storestorm with tornado

DO: Be conscientious of others and take cover in a windowless, enclosed area in the middle of the building.

DON’T: Ignore the instructions of facility managers.


  1. School

DO: Follow the drill and follow instructions given to you by faculty. Go to an interior hall or room. Crouch, put your head down and protect your head with your arms.

DON’T: Take shelter in large, spacious rooms such as gyms or auditoriums.


  1. Car or truck

DO: Drive away from the tornado at a right angle if it is far away and if traffic is light. Otherwise, park, get out and find shelter in a building or by lying flat on low ground.

DON’T: Seek shelter under a bridge. It offers little protection from flying debris and can accelerate wind speed.


  1. Outdoors

DO: Find shelter in a building. If that’s not possible, lie flat on low ground and protect your head with your arms.

DON’T: Take shelter under a bridge or near trees or cars. A tornado can blow them onto you.



Source: Minnesota Department of Public Safety