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Menopause: Managing Hot Flashes

Introduction

Most women have hot flashes at some point before or after menopause. Hot flashes happen when estrogen levels drop. While some women have few to no hot flashes, others have them many times each day.

Hot flashes can be uncomfortable and upsetting. They can lower the quality of your sleep and daily life. But they aren't a sign of a medical problem. They are a normal response to natural changes in your body.

Hot flashes usually get better or go away after the first or second year after menopause. At that point, estrogen levels usually stay at a low level.

You can try lifestyle changes that may help you manage or reduce your hot flashes.

  • Avoid using tobacco or drinking a lot of alcohol. This may help you manage or reduce your symptoms.
  • Manage stress. Stress may make hot flashes worse.
  • Exercise regularly, and eat a healthy diet.

You also can talk to your doctor about treatments that may either reduce or stop your hot flashes. These include taking hormone therapy.

How can I manage hot flashes?

You can manage hot flashes by making certain lifestyle choices. You can also take daily medicine. Some measures help prevent or reduce hot flashes. Others can make you more comfortable when you're having a hot flash.

Lifestyle choices

Eat and drink well, and avoid smoking

  • Limit alcohol.
  • Drink cold liquids rather than hot ones.
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Digesting a lot of food can make you feel hotter.
  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Do not smoke or use other forms of tobacco.

Stay cool

  • Keep your area cool. Use a fan.
  • Dress in layers. Then you can remove clothes as needed.
  • Wear natural fabrics, such as cotton and silk.
  • Sleep with fewer blankets.

Reduce stress

Medical treatment

  • Hormone therapy (HT) can reduce or stop hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. It raises your estrogen level. Have regular checkups. This is because HT may increase the risk of problems in a small number of women. These problems include blood clots, stroke, heart disease, breast cancer, and dementia. Risk varies based on when you start HT in menopause and how long you take it. Using HT for a short time in early menopause has less risk than when it is started later in menopause.
  • Estrogen-progestin birth control pills (before menopause) can reduce or stop hot flashes and other symptoms. They can keep your hormones from going up and down.
  • Antidepressant medicine can reduce the number of hot flashes and how bad they are. It improves the brain's use of serotonin, which helps control body temperature.
  • Clonidine may relieve hot flashes for some women.
  • Gabapentin, an antiseizure medicine, may lower the number of hot flashes each day. It also may make hot flashes less severe.

References

Citations

  1. North American Menopause Society (2015). The North American Menopause Society statement on continuing use of systemic hormone therapy after age 65. Menopause, 22(7): 693. http://www.menopause.org/docs/default-source/2015/2015-nams-hormone-therapy-after-age-65.pdf. Accessed August 24, 2015.

Other Works Consulted

  • U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2017). Hormone therapy for the primary prevention of chronic conditions in postmenopausal women: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA 2017 Dec 12; 318:2224. Available online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.2017.18261.

Credits

Current as of: February 19, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Carla J. Herman MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine