7 Expert-Approved Ways to Relieve Hot Flashes

There are many things you can do to minimize this annoying symptom, which starts during perimenopause.

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Many women going through perimenopause and menopause experience hot flashes—the rapid onset of extreme heat that can cause a flushed face and sweating, often followed by chills. Whether they strike in the middle of an important meeting or at night, hot flashes are uncomfortable, frustrating and even a little embarrassing, depending on when and where they occur.

While we’d like to tell you that hot flashes and night sweats come and go in a flash, some women have them for up to 10 years or more.   

Although the exact cause of hot flashes is unknown, they most likely occur due to changes in reproductive hormones affecting your hypothalamus, known as your body’s “thermostat.”

While the exact cause of hot flashes is unknown, it is most likely due to changes in reproductive hormones affecting your body’s “thermostat” (hypothalamus). “During menopause, the ‘thermostat’ easily reads an elevated temperature, causing you to sweat to release heat,” says OBGYN Christina Cox, MD, of Coliseum Medical Centers in Macon, Georgia.

The good news? There are many treatments for hot flashes, both for the short and long term. Here are some relief tips Dr. Cox recommends to her patients. 

Medically reviewed in December 2019.

Keep an open mind about medications

2 / 8 Keep an open mind about medications

Antidepressants are usually the first line of treatment for those women who cannot take estrogen. Paroxetine is the only non-hormonal medication approved to treat hot flashes in the United States. Ordinarily used to treat depression, the prescription-only medication may provide some hot flash relief when used in lower doses. Other antidepressants, such as venlafaxine or fluoxetine, may also be recommended.

Gabapentin, an anti-seizure medication and clonidine, a high blood pressure medication, are two other drugs that women might try to reduce symptoms. Some medications are better for certain patients than others; you and your gynecologist can determine what is best for you.  

Consider menopausal hormone therapy

3 / 8 Consider menopausal hormone therapy

“The traditional medical treatment for hot flashes is going to center on replacing depleted estrogen and bringing your body’s thermal regulation back in line,” says Cox. The go-to treatment to do that is menopausal hormone therapy, in the form of a patch or oral pills. 

Despite what you may have heard about this type of hormone therapy, all major women’s health organizations—including the North American Menopause Society, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists—approve and recommend this treatment for the right candidate, says Cox. 

The therapy that’s right for you depends on whether or not you have a uterus. (Some women may have had surgery to remove the uterus, a procedure known as a hysterectomy.) If you do have a uterus, combination estrogen and progestin is recommended, as the progestin will help prevent uterine cancer. If you don’t have a uterus, just estrogen alone is okay.  You’ll want to talk with your gynecologist about whether or not hormone therapy is right for you, given the potential risks and benefits

Wear layers and choose your fabric wisely

4 / 8 Wear layers and choose your fabric wisely

Not only will hot flashes make you warm, you may also get chills afterwards. Wearing easy-to-shed layers and moisture-wicking clothing will help you adjust to being both warm and cold. “Dressing in layers allows you to somewhat stabilize your temperature as you change environments,” says Cox. 

So, dress in layers, wearing things like sweaters, scarves in the winter, light jackets and short-sleeve or sleeveless tops. When you feel a hot flash coming on, you can peel off layers to stay cooler and when you feel chilly afterwards, you can put back on your warmer pieces.

As for which fabrics to wear, try options that are breathable and light like cotton. Many companies have also started to make clothing that actually cools you off, too.  

Keep fans and ice cubes handy

5 / 8 Keep fans and ice cubes handy

Stay armed and ready for hot flashes by always keeping a fan by your side. Invest in a mini fan for your desk at work, and if you’re on the go, try one of the hand-held options. 

Sipping on cold drinks with ice can provide some relief, so make sure you have ice water nearby. If you experience night sweats, keep your room cooler than usual to help beat the heat. 

Steer clear of triggers

6 / 8 Steer clear of triggers

There are certain foods that can make hot flashes worse, make them last longer or cause you to have them more frequently. Spicy foods like hot peppers—as well as alcohol, caffeine and, for some women, sugar—can set off the sweats.

Try to incorporate more plant-based foods like chickpeas, lentils, whole grains and soybeans into your diet. These foods may have a small estrogen-like effect on the body and might serve to weaken hot flash symptoms. 

Stress less

7 / 8 Stress less

You probably know that when you’re stressed, you sweat. But stress can also cause a full-on hot flash episode. And while not all stressful situations can be avoided, there are techniques and habits that can help relieve some of your worry and tension—even the worry over whether or not another hot flash is going to strike.

Here are some ways to reduce stress and, in turn, pesky hot flashes:

  • Practice meditation, deep breathing and positive thinking techniques
  • Aim to get six to nine hours of sleep per night
  • Take time for exercise; yoga is an especially good pick for managing stress
  • Treat yourself to something you enjoy, like a manicure, workout class, massage or long bath 
Exercise and maintain a healthy weight

8 / 8 Exercise and maintain a healthy weight

Obesity is a well-known hot flash risk factor, so it’s important to maintain a healthy weight during the transition (and before and after, of course). 

Not only will regular exercise help you de-stress, but staying active can keep the scale in check. In the process, you can help keep your hot flashes to a minimum. 

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