8 Expert-Approved Ways to Relieve Hot Flashes
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8 Expert-Approved Ways to Relieve Hot Flashes

There are many things you can do to minimize these annoying symptoms, which start in perimenopause.

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By Olivia DeLong

Many women going through perimenopause and menopause experience hot flashes—the rapid onset of extreme heat that can cause a flushed face and sweating, which may be followed by chills. And whether they strike in the middle of an important meeting or at night, they 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 or more years.   

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, both for the short and long term. Here are some of the hot-flash-relief tips Dr. Cox recommends for her patients.

Certain medications

2 / 9 Certain medications

Antidepressants are usually the first line of treatment for those women who cannot take estrogen. There is only one approved non-hormonal medication specifically used to treat hot flashes in the United States, and it’s called paroxetine. Usually used to treat depression, in lower doses the prescription-only medication may provide some hot flash relief. Other antidepressants, such as venlafaxine, may also be recommended.

Gabapentin is another drug that women might turn to reduce symptoms. Some medications are better for certain women than others; you and your gynecologist can determine which is best for you.

Menopausal hormone therapy

3 / 9 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. And 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, The Endocrine Society and The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology approve and recommend this treatment for the right candidate, says Cox.

And the therapy that’s right for you depends on whether or not you have a uterus due to hysterectomy. If you do, combination estrogen and progestin is recommended, as the progestin will help prevent uterine cancer. If you don’t have a uterus, just estrogen is okay. You’ll want to talk with your gynecologist about whether or not hormone therapy is right for you.

Wear layers and choose your fabric wisely

4 / 9 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.

When it comes to which fabrics to wear, try choosing 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 / 9 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 / 9 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, 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; they may have a small estrogen-like effect on the body and weaken hot flash symptoms.

Stress less

7 / 9 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, massage or long bath
Exercise and maintain a healthy weight

8 / 9 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, staying active can keep the scale in check, and in turn your hot flashes at a minimum.

Skip the natural products

9 / 9 Skip the natural products

You’ve probably heard that natural herbal supplements like the plant black cohosh, red clover and ginseng are used to relieve menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, but Cox says there’s not much evidence to show that they are any more effective than a placebo. In fact, the safety concerns may be more prevalent than efficacy.

Various clinical trials show that taking black cohosh may cause breast pain or infection, vaginal bleeding, stomach upset, rashes and liver issues. In general, herbal pills and supplements are not regulated as carefully as prescription drugs. The contents (quality, amount of the actual herb and its purity) are not usually known, meaning you may not even be getting the compounds you think you’re getting.

Menopause

Menopause

If you are a woman in your 40s and 50s, you might notice that your periods start to change as menopause approaches. During menopause, the menstrual cycle becomes less predictable, and many women start to experience uncomfortable s...

ymptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and/or changes in mood.
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