Hot flashes (sudden feelings of heat in the upper body or all over) are a common symptom of menopause. Most last between 30 seconds and 10 minutes. Though hot flashes can continue to occur even a few years after menopause, there are a variety of coping strategies women can use to help relieve them. In some cases, medications may also be used.
What Are Hot Flashes?
A hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat in the upper part of your body, although some women experience it all over. During a hot flash, your face and neck become flushed, and red blotches may appear on your chest, back, and arms. Heavy sweating and cold shivering can follow. Hot flashes can be as mild as a light blush or severe enough to wake you from a sound sleep (called night sweats). Most last between 30 seconds and 10 minutes.
Hot flashes are often associated with menopause because they are related to the changing estrogen levels a woman experiences during this time; however, women may still experience episodes even a few years after menopause.
How to Cope With Hot Flashes
Menopause is a natural part of a woman's life -- not a disease that has to be treated -- but you might want some help with symptoms like hot flashes. Here are some ideas that have helped some women find relief:
- Try to keep track of when they occur -- keeping a diary can help. You might be able to use this information to find out what things trigger your hot flashes and then avoid them.
- When a hot flash starts, go somewhere cool.
- If night sweats wake you, try sleeping in a cool room or with a fan on.
- Dress in layers that you can take off if you get too warm.
- Use sheets and clothing that let your skin "breathe."
- Have a cold drink (water or juice) when a hot flash is starting.
- You could also talk to your healthcare provider about whether there are any medicines to manage hot flashes. Gabapentin, megestrol acetate, and certain antidepressants seem to be helpful for some women.
(Click Symptoms of Menopause to learn more.)