Those annoying hot flashes: what to do

If you have hot flashes, you are not alone! Hot flashes are the most frequent symptoms of menopause and perimenopause. A hot flash is a brief sensation of heat often accompanied by a red, flushed face and sweating. Some women also experience a rapid heart rate or chills. The cause is not known, but hot flashes may be related to changes in circulation.

What to do

Talk to your healthcare provider about the pros and cons of taking short-term hormone therapy. Here are some other ideas to try:
  • Drink cold water or juice just as a hot flash starts.
  • Take deep, slow breaths.
  • Use layered bedding and light layers of clothing that you can adjust as your body temperature changes.
  • Keep a cold pack under your pillow, and turn the pillow often so that you're always sleeping on the cool side.
  • Exercise regularly; for example, try walking, swimming, dancing or bicycling.
  • Eat one or two servings of soy foods (such as tofu, tempeh, soybeans or roasted soy nuts) daily.
  • Take black cohosh. (Research is mixed about using this herbal supplement, but some women report improvement in mild hot flashes.)
  • Take prescription medicines or supplements as advised by your healthcare provider.

What to avoid

To help prevent hot flashes, try to avoid:
  • Stress
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy foods
  • Tight clothing
  • Heat
  • Cigarette smoke

How to get help

You, your healthcare provider, and family and friends can form a network to discover what works best. Hot flashes are normal, and we can all help!

Published July/August 2009, Southwest Health
Marilyn Darr, MD
Family Medicine of Southwest Washington
100 E. 33rd St.
Vancouver, WA 98663
(360) 514-7550