Menopause Hot Flashes: The Cold Truth

May 07, 2014
Menopause Hot Flashes: The Cold Truth

Adapted from The North American Menopause Society: The Menopause Guidebook

Hot flashes are the most common menopause-related symptom—and they’re often the first sign of impending menopause (along with irregular periods) that a woman will notice. In fact, more than 75% of North American women have hot flashes during perimenopause. But women don’t have to suffer through hot flashes for the entire second half of their lives. Read on for several solutions—plus some quick fixes to take care of your most uncomfortable symptoms.

First, what exactly are menopause hot flashes? The exact cause is still a matter of speculation, but it’s thought to be the result of changes in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates the body’s temperature. When the hypothalamus senses your body is too warm, it starts a chain of events to cool the body down. In addition to an uncomfortably warm feeling, symptoms include sweating, a rapid heartbeat, a flushed face and a feeling of anxiety. Then, hot flashes are often followed by a cold chill.

Hot flashes usually follow a consistent pattern unique to each woman. Some hot flashes are easily tolerated, others are annoying or embarrassing, and still others can be debilitating. Most women experience hot flashes for 3 to 5 years before they taper off. Although some women never have a menopause hot flash or have them only for a few months, others have them for many years, even into their 70s or beyond. A recent study suggests that the earlier a woman’s hot flashes start, the longer they last. There is no reliable way of predicting when they will start—or stop.

The good news is that many women won’t need any treatment for hot flashes. But when menopause hot flashes are very distressing, they can usually be reduced or stopped with one or more of the options listed below. The best treatment choice depends on how much the hot flashes interfere with your quality of life, your preferences, and your overall health.

Lifestyle Changes

For less severe menopause hot flashes, there are a few things women can do to provide relief from symptoms. First, identify and avoid your personal hot flash triggers. These could include external heat (such as a warm room or using a hair dryer), stress, hot drinks, hot or spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, or cigarette smoking.

Often, practices like meditation, yoga or tai chi can be helpful. Similarly, try taking slow, deep, abdominal breaths in through the nose and releasing them out through the mouth at the beginning of a hot flash.

To stay cool during the day, dress in layers. When you get a hot flash, wash your hands in cold water, and keep a small fan at your desk and on your bedside table. At night, use light cotton sheets and layer your bedding so it can be easily adjusted during the night. Keep a frozen cold pack under the pillow, and turn the pillow often so that your head is always resting on a cool surface. Also, keep cool water nearby to sip when awakening during the night.

And practices with a therapist, such as bio-feedback, positive visualization, acupuncture, and massage, have also garnered positive results.


Dietary supplements that claim to relieve menopause symptoms may include evening primrose oil, dong quai, ginseng, licorice, sage, black cohosh and isoflavones (weak, plant-derived estrogens found in soy foods). Although some women report that dietary supplements help relieve their menopause hot flashes, most scientific studies don’t support their use.

Other nonprescription remedies said to relieve hot flashes include topical progesterone cream, which has also not been found to be effective in scientific studies. However, over-the-counter cooling gels applied during a hot flash are sometimes helpful.

There’s no way to know your best option without consulting your physician—and using a little trial and error. With a little help, you’re sure to be back to your old self in a flash.

To purchase the full version of The North American Menopause Society: The Menopause Guidebook, go to

Vibrant Voice Ambassador at Replens
The Vibrant Voice Ambassador’s mission is to collect interesting stories and useful articles that are relevant for mature women.  Our goal is to help you maintain an active lifestyle - to Fifty and Beyond!
Chat with us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+

© 2018 Church & Dwight Co., Inc. All rights reserved.