To print: Use your web browser's print feature. Close this window after printing.

Menopause: Managing Hot Flashes


Table of Contents


Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.   Menopause: Managing Hot Flashes

Most women experience hot flashes at some point before or after menopause, when their estrogen levels are declining. While some women have few to no hot flashes, others have them numerous times each day. If hot flashes are disrupting your sleep or daily life, you are no doubt looking for relief. Fortunately, you have a number of self-care and medical treatment options that can help you manage your symptoms.

Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  What do I need to know about hot flashes?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  Why treat hot flashes?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  How can I manage hot flashes?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  Where can I go from here?

What? - What is the medical information or key concepts related to the action?  What do I need to know about hot flashes?

If you have experienced hot flashes, you're already well aware that they are sudden sensations of intense body heat, often with heavy sweating and reddening of the head, neck, and chest or the entire body. At night, they commonly cause drenching "night sweats," making them a cause of sleep problems for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women.

During a typical hot flash, your skin temperature rises. Although you may feel very warm during a hot flash, because of the heat lost by your body's cooling mechanism (perspiration), your body temperature may actually drop. Some women feel chilly after a hot flash, and some women feel the chill without the flash.

The biochemical cause of hot flashes is not well understood. But they are linked to declining estrogen levels, and they do seem to be made worse by stress, heavy alcohol use, and cigarette smoking. Although menopausal hot flashes can be disruptive, frustrating, and at times embarrassing, they are medically harmless. They are not a sign of a medical problem, nor do they cause medical problems.

It is normal for hot flashes to:

Hot flashes are uncommon in various places around the world. More research is necessary before experts can identify specific factors about American women's environment and lifestyle that make hot flashes a common problem.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. Hot flashes are a normal part of perimenopause and postmenopause and are caused by declining estrogen levels.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      Hot flashes are a normal part of perimenopause and postmenopause and are caused by declining estrogen levels. They usually subside within a couple of years after menopause.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      Hot flashes are a normal part of perimenopause and postmenopause and are caused by declining estrogen levels. They usually subside within a couple of years after menopause.


  2. My doctor will be able to tell me how long I can expect to have hot flashes.

    1. True

      This answer is incorrect.

      Hot flashes usually stop on their own, but there is no reliable method to help your doctor predict when this will happen.

    2. False

      This answer is correct.

      Hot flashes usually stop on their own, but there is no reliable method to help your doctor predict when this will happen.


Why? - Why the action is important?  Why treat hot flashes?

Hot flashes are a normal part of perimenopause for most women. If yours are mild or infrequent, there is no need to treat them. But it's common to look for relief of moderate to severe or frequent hot flashes that disrupt your daily life and sleep.

You may not have to "treat" hot flashes to prevent them or get them under control. Making healthy lifestyle choices is your best and first choice for hot flashes and can make a big difference in how your body handles the transition to menopause. But if hot flashes are frequent and powerful, additional treatment may be needed to help you get enough sleep or lead a predictable daily life.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. Hot flashes require treatment.

    1. True

      This answer is incorrect.

      Hot flashes don't require treatment for medical reasons. It's up to you to decide whether to try a treatment if your symptoms are making your life difficult.

    2. False

      This answer is correct.

      Hot flashes don't require treatment for medical reasons. It's up to you to decide whether to try a treatment if your symptoms are making your life difficult.


How? - Learn the steps involved in taking action.  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, and others can make you more comfortable when you're having a hot flash. If you are looking for additional treatment measures, you have a few options to choose from.

Lifestyle choices for preventing or reducing hot flashes

Eat and drink well, and avoid smoking.

Stay cool.

Reduce stress.

Medical treatment options for hot flashes

Test Your Knowledge

  1. You can help make yourself more comfortable during a hot flash if you dress in layers and keep a fan handy.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      Dressing in layers allows you to remove clothing during a hot flash. This may make your hot flash less severe and also less noticeable to others. Using a fan can also help cool the surrounding air and make you more comfortable.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      Dressing in layers allows you to remove clothing during a hot flash. This may make your hot flash less severe and also less noticeable to others. Using a fan can also help cool the surrounding air and make you more comfortable.


  2. Regular exercise and the use of relaxation techniques, such as meditative breathing exercises, yoga, and biofeedback, may decrease the frequency and severity of your hot flashes. Using a breathing-for-relaxation exercise may reduce hot flashes and emotional symptoms.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      Regular exercise and the use of relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, yoga, and biofeedback, may make your hot flashes less intense and less frequent.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      Regular exercise and the use of relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, yoga, and biofeedback, may make your hot flashes less intense and less frequent.


  3. Let your doctor know if you are taking any alternative medicine or herbal supplement for your hot flashes.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      If you are using an alternative medicine or herbal supplement, make sure your doctor knows. Alternative medicines and herbal supplements don't have to have the same testing or purity standards as prescription and other nonprescription medicines. Tell your doctor the type and amount you are taking, and how long you have been taking it. If you are taking black cohosh, have regular checkups to make sure it is not causing any medical problems.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      If you are using an alternative medicine or herbal supplement, make sure your doctor knows. Alternative medicines and herbal supplements don't have to have the same testing or purity standards as prescription and other nonprescription medicines. Tell your doctor the type and amount you are taking, and how long you have been taking it. If you are taking black cohosh, have regular checkups to make sure it is not causing any medical problems.


Where? - Other resources and organizations that can help you take action.  Where can I go from here?

If you are having problems with hot flashes, discuss them with your doctor at your next regularly scheduled appointment. If your hot flashes are so severe that they are disrupting your sleep or affecting another area of your life, call your doctor to discuss your hot flashes.

Organizations

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
409 12th Street SW
P.O. Box 70620
Washington, DC  20024-9998
Phone: 1-800-673-8444
Phone: (202) 638-5577
Email: resources@acog.org
Web Address: www.acog.org
 

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is a nonprofit organization of professionals who provide health care for women, including teens. The ACOG Resource Center publishes manuals and patient education materials. The Web publications section of the site has patient education pamphlets on many women's health topics, including reproductive health, breast-feeding, violence, and quitting smoking.


North American Menopause Society (NAMS)
5900 Landerbrook Drive
Suite 390
Mayfield Heights, OH 44124
Phone: (440) 442-7550
Fax: (440) 442-2660
Email: info@menopause.org
Web Address: www.menopause.org
 

The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) is a nonprofit organization that promotes the understanding of menopause and thereby improves the health of women as they approach menopause and beyond. NAMS members include experts from medicine, nursing, sociology, psychology, nutrition, anthropology, epidemiology, pharmacy, and education. The NAMS website has information on perimenopause, early menopause, menopause symptoms and long-term health effects of estrogen loss, and a variety of therapies.


Office on Women's Health
Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW Room 712E
Washington, DC 20201
Phone: 1-800-994-9662
(202) 690-7650
Fax: (202) 205-2631
TDD: 1-888-220-5446
Web Address: www.womenshealth.gov
 

The Office on Women's Health is a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It provides women's health information to a variety of audiences, including consumers, health professionals, and researchers.


To learn more about menopausal changes, see the topic Menopause and Perimenopause.

References

Citations

  1. North American Menopause Society (2012). The 2012 hormone therapy position statement of the North American Menopause Society. Menopause, 19(3): 257–271. Also available online: http://www.menopause.org/PSht12.pdf.

  2. Shifren JL, et al. (2010). Role of hormone therapy in the management of menopause. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 115(4): 839–855.

  3. Burbos N, Morris EP (2011). Menopausal symptoms, search date June 2010. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.

  4. North American Menopause Society (2011). The role of soy isoflavones in menopausal health: Report of the North American Menopause Society. Menopause, 18(7): 732–753.

Other Works Consulted

Credits for Menopause: Managing Hot Flashes

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine
Last Revised January 17, 2013

Note: The "printer friendly" document will not contain all the information available in the online document. Some information (e.g. cross-references to other topics, definitions or medical illustrations) is only available in the online version.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.