Dealing with hot flashes during menopause
Hot flashes are the most common symptom of menopause. Here’s how you can manage them.
Hot flashes are the most common symptom that women experience during the transition to menopause.
During a hot flash, there is a sudden feeling of heat in the upper body, like the face, neck, and chest. The hot feeling is accompanied by sweating, a flushed face, a rapid heart rate, and sometimes feelings of anxiety, followed by chills.
When hot flashes occur at night, they’re known as night sweats. These can keep you up at night and make it difficult to get a good night’s rest.
Hot flashes vary in how long they last. On average, women experience hot flashes for about seven years, though some can get them for more than 10 years.
Read on to learn more about hot flashes, what causes or triggers them, and how you can deal with them.
What causes hot flashes?
Hot flashes appear to be related to the hormone changes that women experience as their bodies transition to menopause, which is when a woman’s period stops for at least 12 months.
During menopause, estrogen levels naturally decline.
The exact cause is unknown, but some research suggests that decreased estrogen makes the body more sensitive to temperature changes, and it triggers a hot flash to cool you down.
Some studies show that there is a link between race and the occurrence of hot flashes, with Black or Hispanic women more likely to experience hot flashes than white or Asian women.
What triggers hot flashes?
Some stimuli can trigger hot flashes. These include stress, beverages like caffeine and alcohol, spicy foods, or cigarette smoke. Heat or things that can make you overheat (like wearing tight clothes) can also trigger hot flashes.
One way to avoid hot flashes is to avoid these triggers and be proactive about staying cool.
How can I deal with hot flashes?
Most advice for dealing with hot flashes centers around staying cool through things like:
- Open windows
- Air conditioning
- Using fans in your room, and portable ones when on the go
- Lower your room temperature
- Using a “chill pillow” at night
- Drinking a small amount of cold water before sleeping
- Layer your bedding so that you can remove layers if you feel hot
- Wearing loose clothing made of light-weight, natural fibers
- Wearing layers that you can remove
Daily exercise, deep breathing, and meditation may also help you manage hot flashes.
Hormone therapy and medication are also options for reducing hot flashes. Hormone replacement therapy — which involves treatment with estrogen or progesterone — can be used to combat hot flashes.
However, hormone therapy may also come with side effects like increased risk of heart attack, stroke, blood clots, or breast cancer for some women, according to the National Institutes of Health. Its effectiveness can depend on the woman’s age, when the hormone therapy starts, how long it’s carried out, and other risk factors the woman may have.
Talk to your doctor about the possibility of hormone therapy and whether it’s right for you.
Plant estrogens — like those found in soy products — may also mimic the effects of estrogen and reduce hot flashes.
Herbs and supplements — like black cohosh — may help, but the effects are not proven and studies can be inconclusive. Using natural herbs may also come with side effects, so be sure to talk to your doctor before trying anything new.
In some cases, a doctor may prescribe medication for hot flashes. For instance, the antidepressant paroxetine has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat hot flashes.
Unfortunately, medication may also come with its own side effects like dizziness, headache, nausea, or drowsiness. As always, talk to your doctor about medication.
Tired of hot flashes? Experiencing other menopause symptoms? Alpha is here to help. We provide treatment for menopause-related symptoms and can support you through the transition as your body changes. The good news: you can complete consultations online and get treated from the comfort of your home.