Women who have entered perimenopause or menopause frequently complain about hot flashes. Although hot flashes are common, many women aren’t sure how to deal with them. While they can occur for a variety of medical reasons, they are most often associated with perimenopause or menopause. Estrogen drops during that time, disrupting the body’s thermostat.

Hot flashes are the most frequently reported symptom of perimenopause, the transitional phase before a woman completely stops menstruating and enters menopause. Here are some tips on how to deal with hot flashes.

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Am I Having a Hot Flash?

If you have ever had one, you already know the answer: You experience a sudden and intense sensation of heat, like your body has become a furnace. Hot flashes are annoying and can cause your heart to race and your skin to become sweaty and flushed. Some women report feeling anxious, uncomfortable, and/or uneasy before a hot flash.

When a hot flash finally stops, your body’s extreme temperature change can leave you feeling chilly and run down. Hot flashes vary in frequency and intensity. You can experience periods without a flare up that last anywhere from a few hours to weeks.

Some women never experience hot flashes or have them only for a short period of time. On average, women can experience them for seven to 10 years. A typical hot flash can last from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. While there is no cure, you can learn how to manage a hot flash.

Managing Your Hot Flashes

Simple lifestyle changes can manage some of your symptoms:

  • Dress in layers so that you are able to remove and add clothing as needed. Cotton is a better option than silk, rayon, or polyester because it is breathable.
  • Try wearing workout clothes as casual wear. They are often designed with wicking capabilities to prevent them from sticking to your skin or making you too sweaty.
  • Stick to cool rooms and beverages, since warm temperatures can trigger a hot flash.
  • Switch to iced versions of your favorite coffee or tea. Decaf is a better option because caffeine has been found to intensify hot flashes.
  • Try taking a cool shower or bath especially at night when hot flashes can occur more frequently.
  • Make exercise a part of your routine. Workouts can release feel-good hormones like dopamine, potentially easing mood swings other symptoms that accompany menopause.
  • Yoga can help you relax, but avoid any forms of hot yoga since you’re already feeling overheated.
  • Meditation, biofeedback, and other relaxation techniques that have been found to help you cope.
  • Stop smoking and limit alcohol intake — both are both known triggers for hot flashes.

When to See a Doctor About Hot Flashes

Hot flashes are more often an inconvenience than a serious problem, but 10 to 15 percent of women may need medical treatment. Hot flashes can cause insomnia, which can increase your risk of depression and high blood pressure. Studies also have found a link between hot flashes and osteoporosis and a higher risk of heart disease.

If you think you may be experiencing hot flashes, talk to your doctor. To locate a UPMC doctor in your area, call 1-800-533-8762 or visit FindDoc.UPMC.com.

The doctors at the Midlife Health Center at UPMC Magee have expertise in caring for women in perimenopause and menopause. To ask a question or make an appointment at one of our convenient locations, call 412-641-8889.

About UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital

For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. More than 9,000 babies are born each year at Magee. The hospital also treats men for a variety of conditions, including surgical treatment. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first center to focus research only on conditions involving women and their infants.