Cold flashes are common among most people. They happen when your body’s core temperature drops too low or rises too high. A drop in core temperature causes you to feel tired, weak, dizzy, lightheaded and even panic. Your heart rate may increase and you might experience shortness of breath or chest pain. You could have a seizure if it happens suddenly. When these symptoms occur they can cause you to lose consciousness temporarily and sometimes permanently.
The main risk factors for developing cold flashes include:
Being overweight or obese (especially if you’re male)
Having diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, sleep apnea or other breathing disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which affects up to 30% of adults over 65 years old; and having a family history of any one of those conditions. People with asthma are particularly at risk.
Smoking cigarettes or using tobacco products
Taking certain medications such as anticonvulsants, antihypertensives, beta blockers and calcium channel antagonists. These drugs can affect how your body responds to cold temperatures. Also, taking certain medicines during pregnancy can cause birth defects in children. Women who are pregnant should not smoke because their unborn babies’ health is at risk from secondhand smoke exposure.
Elderly people are more likely to experience cold flashes.
When you experience cold flashes, your body passes from a hot state directly to a cold state and the blood vessels within your skin rapidly contract and dilate. This is what causes your skin to turn red and flush. Your hands and feet will turn blue, especially if they’re exposed to the air.
Feeling hot then cold symptoms can occur when you rapidly move between a warm home or office and a cold environment, such as going outside in winter without proper clothing. It can happen when you exercise vigorously, especially if you’re not used to it. You can also feel hot flashes after taking a hot bath or shower. It’s also common with fever.
Some people experience night sweats, which is the medical term for excessive sweating occurring at night. Night sweats are a common symptom of menopause in women and can occur with a fever, infection or other conditions. Some drugs and medical conditions can cause night sweats as a side effect.
Feeling hot then cold symptoms can be caused by low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), the nervous system disorder Raynaud’s phenomenon and a condition called autoinflammatory syndrome.
The health risks of feeling hot then cold symptoms can be serious, especially if you ignore the signs and don’t pay attention to when they occur. The symptoms can be a sign of life-threatening conditions such as heart attacks, irregular heart rhythms (called arrhythmias), heart failure and blood clots in the lungs.
If you begin to experience these symptoms or you’re concerned about changes in how you feel, make an appointment to see your doctor. He or she will ask you questions about your medical history and perform a physical exam. You may also have blood tests and other diagnostic tests.
Treatment for feeling hot then cold symptoms will depend on the cause of your symptoms. If you’re overweight, your doctor may prescribe weight loss medications or recommend that you make dietary changes and begin a fitness program.
If you have an inflammatory disorder such as lupus or another autoimmune disorder, you may need medication to control your symptoms. Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise are also important to controlling these diseases.
If you have heart disease, medications and lifestyle changes may be recommended to help lower your risk of a heart attack or other cardiovascular disease. If you’re at risk of a blood clot, your doctor may prescribe blood thinners to help improve your condition. In some cases, surgery may be required.
Feeling hot then cold symptoms can be caused by a variety of conditions, some of which may be serious. If you’re concerned about changes in how you feel, make an appointment to see your doctor. He or she can perform tests to determine what might be causing your symptoms and advise you on the next steps.
Sources & references used in this article:
Hot flashes in breast cancer survivors by RG Jacob, JM Furman, JM Perel – Vestibular autonomic regulation, 1996 – CRC Press Inc
… apparatus, system, and method for connecting multiple cameras, stills cameras, video cameras, DSLRs, monitors, microphones, flashes, radio receivers, recording … by D Hoda, DG Perez, CL Loprinzi – The breast journal, 2003 – Wiley Online Library
The cognitive behavioral workbook for menopause: a step-by-step program for overcoming hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and … by E McGucken – US Patent App. 12/928,006, 2011 – Google Patents