Hot flashes, sensations of warmth and heat on the upper body and face, are experienced by 75 percent of the menopausal women in the United States. They occur as a result of reduced estrogen levels in the body.
The severity and pattern of the flashes will be unique to the individual. Some women may easily tolerate them whereas other women might find them debilitating.
Hot flashes can peak during the first two years after menopause and usually decline over time. However, some women might experience them for as long as five years, or even longer.
But don’t worry, there are things you can do to turn down your internal thermostat and carry on with your life without much interruption. Here are some simple tips to help you manage your hot flashes:
1) Layer It Up!
Dressing in layers that you can easily take off can help you manage the heat when a flash hits. Always pick light layers like cotton that can absorb perspiration. Avoid wools, synthetics, and tight clothes that can leave you drenched.
Wear clothing that wicks moisture away from your body. Clothing with these qualities are available — and there are cute styles available! — and make a great first layer to dissipate your hot flashes more quickly.
Try to use bedding and sheets that also have wicking properties to reduce the discomfort of night sweats—and remember not to put too many covers on your bed!
2) No to Stimulants, Yes to Ice-Cold Refreshments
Coffee, tea, alcohol, and even chocolate can be stimulants that trigger your hot flashes. Smoking is also associated with increased hot flashes. Reducing the consumption of these foods and beverages — and quitting smoking! — can help manage your symptoms.
Eating spicy foods might help with weight loss, but they are a no-no when it comes to hot flashes. Hot foods like soups can also worsen your symptoms.
Drinking cold drinks at the start of a hot flash, on the other hand, can help you cool down faster.
Keep a journal to keep track of your symptoms and identify personal triggers, which you can then avoid to help reduce hot flashes.
3) Prep Your Own Cooling Spray
Mix some distilled water with 5-10 drops of aromatherapy oil to create your own cooling spray. Peppermint oil can be a great option, especially if you tend to get anxious or nervous with the coming of a hot flash. You can use a little spray bottle, like the ones that are sold in drugstores, and carry it around in your purse.
Spray it around your face, neck, and chest area when you feel a hot flash coming on. As the water evaporates it will have a cooling effect on your body, and the peppermint oil can help calm your nerves.
Cooling wipes that you can easily buy from a drug store and carry around with you can provide instant relief. Use these wipes around your neck, chest, forehead, and behind your ears to cool off.
A portable, hand-held fan can further increase these cooling effects.
4) Breathe In, Breathe Out
A study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology looked at 14 women who experienced at least two hot flashes per day. It has shown that slow, deep breathing reduced the frequency of their hot flashes by 50 percent and also delayed onset.
If you feel a hot flash is coming, try to practice rhythmic deep breathing to reduce the intensity of it or prevent it from starting altogether.
5) Black Cohosh
According to several studies cited by the University of Maryland Medical Center, black cohosh has been shown to help relieve hot flashes and night sweats. Yet experts do not agree on the effectiveness and safety of using black cohosh, since its use hasn’t been evaluated beyond six months.
However, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists still recognizes the value of this supplement for menopausal symptoms. Ask your doctor if black cohosh is something you can use for the relief of your hot flashes.
Black cohosh. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved Feb 26.
Hot flashes. The North American Menopause Society. Retrieved Feb 26.
How Can I Deal With Hot Flashes During Menopause? Sharecare. Retrieved Feb 26.
Leonard G. M, Freedman R. R. (1984) Behavioral treatment of menopausal hot flashes: Evaluation by objective methods. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 52 (6): 1072-1079. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6394631
Reviewed March 2, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith