Cold Flashes During Menopause: Management & When to Seek Help

Last updated 12.01.2023 | by Dr. Karen Pike | 9 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause. In fact, more than 85% of women report episodes of hot flashes as they approach the end of their menstruating years.

But a much less talked about symptom is cold flashes, and they can affect a surprisingly high number of women. So, if you’ve been experiencing sudden body chills and shivering, menopause could be to blame.

Most women aren’t aware that cold flashes are associated with the hormonal shifts of menopause. So, when they strike, it can come as a surprise. You might worry that this drop in body temperature is a sign of an underlying condition, but in fact, chances are, it’s a perfectly normal side effect of menopause. So, it’s essential to learn about cold flashes, so that you can be prepared if you experience them yourself. 

I experienced both hot and cold flashes myself during perimenopause, and at first, the sudden chills caught me off guard. Despite my intensive research into menopause, I’d not come across this peculiar seeming symptom before. But I quickly realized that they are part and parcel of a wider set of vasomotor symptoms, and a lot of women experience them during their menopausal years.

So, have you been feeling sudden chills and you’re not sure why? Have you noticed yourself shivering, even in a warm room? Menopause associated cold flashes could be to blame.

So, in this post, I’ll examine the relationship between cold flashes and menopause. I’ll look at why it happens, how to manage the symptoms, and when to seek help from your doctor.

What are Cold Flashes and Why Do they Happen?

Cold flashes are characterized by a sudden drop in body temperature that causes shivering and chills. This intense feeling of coldness can also be accompanied by cold sweats.

Cold flashes are the opposite of hot flashes. And both of these menopause symptoms are caused by the same thing: hormones.

Hormonal fluctuations during perimenopause and menopause can throw off the body’s internal thermostat, causing a sudden and drastic shift in body temperature.

When hormones are in balance, a part of the brain known as the hypothalamus regulates temperature, adjusting itself accordingly to the outside environment.

But a spike or drop in estrogen and progesterone can send the hypothalamus into overdrive, triggering the release of chemicals that cool the body down.

Some women notice that their cold flashes tend to occur directly after a hot flash. That was certainly the case for me. One minute, an inferno of heat was descending across my whole body, and the next, I was shivering in a cold sweat. 

The symptoms I was experiencing were a result of the hypothalamus overcompensating for a sudden shift in temperature.

Other Triggers of Cold Flashes During Menopause

If you’re a woman going through perimenopause or menopause, your hormones are in a state of flux. And so hot and cold flashes are likely to be a common occurrence.

But it’s not just menopause that can send your hormones haywire. Your emotional state can also affect the hypothalamus and cause sudden chills.

When you experience extreme feelings of stress, panic, or anxiety, the brain translates these feelings as a sign of immediate danger. As a result, the body releases stress hormones such as adrenaline, which can cause shivering and chills. These stress hormones can also direct blood flow towards your major organs and away from your extremities, leaving everything aside from your core feeling cold.

Weight gain, another common side effect of menopause, can also worsen hormonal shifts, leading to a noticeable increase in hot and cold flashes.

So, managing stress levels, taking care of your mental health, and maintaining a healthy weight, can all help to reduce the severity and frequency of cold flashes.

When Will Cold Flashes Stop?

The answer depends on the individual. Many women find that once they reach menopause and have gone a full 12 months without a period, their symptoms begin to disappear.

At this stage, your hormones have settled to a consistently lower level, and the fluctuations experienced during perimenopause are gone. The body has had a chance to adjust to these new levels, and many of the most bothersome menopause symptoms are resolved.

That being said, some women experience vasomotor symptoms such as hot and cold flashes well into post-menopause.

There’s no surefire way to predict how long you’ll have to put up with cold flashes for. However, one possible indication is your mother. Scientists believe that some menopause symptoms are inherited from mother to daughter. So, if your mom found relief once her periods stopped, chances are you will too.

How Can I Manage Cold Flashes During Menopause?

How Can I Manage Cold Flashes During Menopause

As we discussed above, managing stress and keeping our weight down can help immensely when it comes to cold flashes. In some cases, changes like these can even banish the problem for good.

But for many women, myself included, these lifestyle interventions aren’t enough to get rid of the symptoms.

If that’s you, try the following tips to keep your cold flashes at bay:

Wear Layers

If cold flashes are more prominent than hot flashes, wearing plenty of thin layers can help to keep you warm when a cold flash strikes. Plus, you can add and remove layers of clothing wherever necessary. I also find that layers help me manage my hot flashes, too. If I start to overheat, I can quickly lose a layer and lower my core temperature.

Keep Moving

Keeping your body active during a hot flash will help to raise your core temperature. So, as soon as you notice a chill, try doing simple star jumps on the spot to stave off a cold flash before it has a chance to kick in.

Practice Mindfulness Techniques

Mindfulness breathing exercises can be a valuable tool to help stave off both hot and cold flashes. Focusing on your breath at the first sign of symptoms can help to shut down the ‘fight or flight’ mode which can trigger vasomotor symptoms and make them worse.

Change Your Clothes and Sheets

If you’ve had a hot flash accompanied by sweating, change any wet clothes or bedding straight away. Sitting or lying in damp clothing can trigger shivers, chills, and a cold flash. When I was experiencing frequent night sweats, I kept a dry change of pajamas and some spare sheets next to my bed. This way, if I woke up in a sweat, I could easily change them and go straight back to sleep.

Stay Hydrated

Hot and cold flashes are often accompanied by profuse sweating. But if you’re not drinking enough fluid, excess sweat can quickly lead to dehydration. So, be sure to monitor your water intake and keep your hydration levels topped up.

When Should I Seek Help From My Doctor?

Cold flashes are a lesser talked about yet surprisingly common symptom of menopause. And if you’re struggling with this troubling condition, you don’t have to suffer alone. If you’re worried about cold flashes or they’re affecting your quality of life, book an appointment to see your doctor. They can assess your symptoms, rule out any underlying conditions, and identify the root cause.

It’s also worth discussing any other menopause symptoms you might be experiencing, for example, hot flashes, mood swings, or headaches. This can give your doctor a clearer picture of what is happening in your body, so they can devise the best treatment plan for you.

FAQs

Q. How long do cold flashes last?

Like hot flashes, cold flashes can come on suddenly and last anywhere between ten seconds and ten minutes.

Q. Can HRT help with menopause-related cold flashes?

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is an effective treatment for various menopause symptoms, including cold flashes. Many women find relief from their vasomotor symptoms once they begin an HRT regimen.
However, HRT is not safe for everyone.
If you’re curious about HRT and want to know if you are a suitable candidate for treatment, speak to your doctor. They can explain the risks and benefits and help you make an informed decision.

Q. Are there any natural remedies that can help with cold flashes during menopause?

Some women have found relief from their menopause cold flashes by using natural supplements that help to balance their hormones.
Black cohosh, red clover, flaxseed, and evening primrose oil can all provide a subtle rebalancing effect that can improve menopause symptoms in many women. Plus, these interventions come with far fewer potential side effects compared with medical treatments such as HRT.
That being said, natural remedies such as these can interact with other medications you might be taking. So, always consult your doctor before adding a new supplement to your routine.

Conclusion

Cold flashes are one of the many bothersome symptoms of menopause. Just like hot flashes, a cold flash attack can catch you off guard. And the more frequent they become, the more they can affect your day-to-day life.

So, if you’re suffering from cold flashes, visit your healthcare provider. They can assess your symptoms, rule out any underlying conditions, and help you find a treatment plan that works for you.

References:

Author

  • Dr. Karen Pike

    Dr. Pike is a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. She received her undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and played collegiate soccer. She attended Georgetown University for medical school and performed her residency in emergency medicine at Stanford University. She was part of the first-ever, women-majority emergency medicine program in United States. Dr. Pike is also the primary medical consultant for “Grey’s Anatomy,” a role she has held since the pilot episode when she partnered with Shonda Rhimes as the show’s original medical consultant. At her hospital, she was the second woman Chief of Staff. Today serves as the Director of the Emergency Department. Whether in leadership or direct patient care, her dedication to excellence in communication, quality, and collaboration is unwavering.