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7 Expert-Approved Ways to Relieve Hot Flashes

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

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Many people going through perimenopause and menopause experience hot flashes—the rapid onset of a sensation 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 sometimes a little embarrassing.

Your bouts with hot flashes can last from a few months to more than 10 years. The good news? There are many short- and long-term treatments to help you feel better.

Medically reviewed in December 2020.

Consider menopausal hormone therapy

2 / 8 Consider menopausal hormone therapy

The traditional medical approach to hot flashes centers on balancing estrogen and bringing your body’s thermal regulation back in line, says Christina Cox, MD, an OBGYN at Coliseum Medical Centers in Macon, Georgia. The go-to treatment to do that is menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) in the form of a patch, oral pills or vaginal ring.

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

The right therapy for you depends on whether or not you have a uterus. (Some people may have had surgery to remove the uterus, a procedure known as a hysterectomy.) If yours is still present, combination estrogen and progestogen is recommended, as the progestogen will help prevent uterine cancer. If you don’t have a uterus, estrogen alone is okay. Speak with your OBGYN about whether MHT is right for you.

Keep an open mind about medications

3 / 8 Keep an open mind about medications

Antidepressants are usually the first line of treatment for those people who cannot take estrogen. Paroxetine is the only non-hormonal medication approved to treat hot flashes in the United States. Ordinarily used for 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 may reduce symptoms. Some medications are better than others for certain patients. You and your OBGYN can determine your best course of action.

Wear layers and choose your fabric wisely

4 / 8 Wear layers and choose your fabric wisely

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

During the winter, try layering short-sleeve tops, sweaters, scarves and light jackets. When you feel a hot flash coming on, you can peel off clothes to stay cooler. When you feel chilly afterwards, you can put your warmer pieces back on.

As for fabrics, try those that are breathable and light, like cotton.

Keep fans and ice cubes handy

5 / 8 Keep fans and ice cubes handy

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

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 feel worse, last longer or occur more frequently. Spicy foods like hot peppers can set off the sweats. So can alcohol, caffeine and, for some people, sugar.

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

Stress less

7 / 8 Stress less

When you’re stressed, you might sweat. But stress can also cause a full-on hot flash episode. While not all stressful situations can be avoided, there are techniques and habits you can try to help relieve some worry and tension—and, in turn, pesky hot flashes:

  • Practice meditation, paced respiration (slow, deep breathing) and positive thinking techniques
  • Aim to get seven 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
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 numbers on the scale in check. In the process, you can help keep your hot flashes to a minimum.

Sources:

Nancy Ferrari. “Menopause-related hot flashes and night sweats can last for years.” Harvard Health Publishing. August 14, 2020.
UpToDate.com. “Menopausal hot flashes.” October 2020. Accessed November 12, 2020.
Mayo Clinic. “Hot flashes.” April 24, 2020. Accessed November 12, 2020.
Merck Manual Professional Version. “Menopause.” December 2019. Accessed November 12, 2020.
UpToDate.com. “Patient education: Non-estrogen treatments for menopausal symptoms (Beyond the Basics).” October 2020. Accessed November 12, 2020.
MedlinePlus. “Venlafaxine.” December 15, 2017. Accessed November 12, 2020.
UpToDate.com. “Patient education: Menopausal hormone therapy (Beyond the Basics).” October 2020. Accessed November 12, 2020.
The North American Menopause Society. “The Experts Do Agree About Hormone Therapy.” 2020. Accessed November 12, 2020.
The North American Menopause Society. “Treating Hot Flashes.” 2014. Accessed November 12, 2020.
Cleveland Clinic. “Menopause: Non-Hormonal Treatment & Relief for Hot Flashes.” January 16, 2017. Accessed November 12, 2020.
Hormone Health Network. “Alternative Medicine for Menopause Treatment.” 2020. Accessed November 12, 2020.
The North American Menopause Society. “Stress: Getting Serious About Solutions.” 2020. Accessed November 12, 2020.
The North American Menopause Society. “Menopause FAQS: Hot Flashes.” 2020. Accessed December 15, 2020.
Harvard Health Publishing. “Perimenopause: Rocky road to menopause.” April 14, 2020. Accessed December 16, 2020.
J Sassarini and RA Anderson. “New pathways in the treatment for menopausal hot flushes.” The Lancet. May 6, 2017. Volume 389, Issue 10081, p1775-1777.
JV Pinterton, FS Aguirre, et al. “The 2017 hormone therapy position statement of The North American Menopause Society.” Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society. 2017. Menopause, Vol. 24, No. 7, pp. 728-753.
S Aminimoghaddam and N Abolghasem. “A Review of Management of Perimenopausal Hot Flashes.” Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Cancer Research. Winter 2019. Volume 4, Issue 1.
KA Toulis, T Tzellos, et al. “Gabapentin for the Treatment of Hot Flashes in Women With Natural or Tamoxifen-Induced Menopause: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Clinical Therapeutics. February 2009. 31(2):221-35.
G Kelsberg, L Maragh, S Safranek. “Which nonhormonal treatments are effective for hot flashes?” Journal of Family Practice. May 2016. 65, no. 05: E1-E3.
H Hairi, AN Shuid, et al. “The Effects and Action Mechanisms of Phytoestrogens on Vasomotor Symptoms During Menopausal Transition: Thermoregulatory Mechanism.” Current Drug Targets. 2019. Volume 20, Number 2, pp. 192-200(9).
DS Burns and JS Carpenter. “Paced Respiration for Hot Flashes?” The Female Patient. July/August 2012. Volume 37.

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