Hot flashes usually indicate that a woman is approaching or experiencing menopause, but prescription and over-the-counter medications, hypothalamus dysfunction, hyperthyroidism, spicy foods and alcohol often cause overheating symptoms, according to Healthline. The stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine can cause skin flushing in times of emotional upset, as can migraine headaches and food or environmental allergies.
Women can sometimes mistaken an infection-related fever for a hot flash. A tumorous condition called carcinoid syndrome can release chemicals that cause symptoms mimicking hot flashes, explains Healthline. Conditions such as eating disorders and head traumas that affect the hypothalamus, a brain region that regulates body temperature, can cause hot flashes. When the thyroid gland secretes excess hormones, the consequent overheating often feels like a hot flash. Raloxifene, used to treat osteoporosis, and tamoxifen, often prescribed for breast cancer, cause skin flushing, and individuals undergoing chemotherapy often experience hot flashes as well.
Hot flashes are the most common symptom women experience in menopause, reports Mayo Clinic. The skin flushes red as a warm sensation spreads throughout the upper body and head, sometimes accompanied by a racing heart. A woman might perspire and then feel chilled as the hot flash passes, typically within a few minutes. Many women experience hot flashes at night, and in most cases they endure for over a year, eventually ceasing within five years.