Hot flashes—they start with a sudden flush, the feeling that your internal thermostat’s been turned up, and spontaneous perspiration. Many women know the sensation all too well.
Odds are that most women will have hot flashes during perimenopause or meno-pause. Some lucky women never have a single hot flash, but about 75% of women do. And surprisingly, many women get them before they stop menstruating.
How often they occur and how long they last is difficult to predict. Many women have only one or two a day, while others have 10 or more. Some women’s hot flashes subside fairly quickly, while other women battle unrelenting hot flashes for many years.
Among the women who are affected, 25% endure hot flashes for more than five years. However, they generally become less frequent and less severe in about three years.
If you suffer from hot flashes, a few simple strategies may help you to beat the heat:
Keep track of when and where you get hot flashes to help pinpoint potential triggers. Many women experience hot flashes after certain cues—like food, temperature, or time of day. Coffee and other hot beverages, spicy foods, and alcohol are common triggers.
Wear layers of clothing—and peel them off when you need to cool off.
Try drinking cold water or running cool water over your wrists at the first sign of a flash. If possible, splash cold water on your face (or try a misting water bottle).
Keep stress at bay as much as you can. Even though it’s unrealistic to avoid all of life’s stressors, emotionally charged situations can make flashes worse. Try daily meditation, slow breathing techniques, progressive relaxation, yoga, or tai chi to relax. Some studies have found these techniques to reduce the incidence and severity of hot flashes.
Exercise regularly. Some research suggests that more active women have less trouble with hot flashes.
Try adjusting the thermostat in your home or office. Start with 70 degrees during the day and 65 degrees at night.
Talk to your doctor if hot flashes are so intense that they interfere with your quality of life. Hormone therapy (HT) is an effective treatment option that has been shown to reduce severe hot flashes by up to 90%. Your doctor can tell you about the risks and benefits associated with HT and help you decide whether it is right for you. ACOG recommends that HT be taken in the lowest dose necessary to relieve symptoms for as short a time as possible. Other medications, such as anti-depressants and oral contraceptives, may also be prescribed off-label depending on your individual needs.
For more information about menopause, visit www.acog.org.