The best tactics for dealing with menopause hot flushes 

Hot flushes are thought to be caused by hormonal fluctuations and can be a real pain in the proverbial - here's how to deal with them.
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  • Eight out of 10 women experience hot flushes and night sweats around the time of the menopause, for an average of seven years.

    While they are completely normal, they can be uncomfortable at best – and debilitating at worst. Knowing what can trigger them is key, as well as how certain lifestyle changes can impact their severity.

    What are hot flushes?

    Hot flushes are thought to be caused by hormonal fluctuations that affect your body’s temperature control mechanisms.

    They are usually described as a sudden, creeping feeling of intense warmth or heat. They can often come from nowhere and quickly spread through the body and face. Hot flushes, sometimes referred to as hot flashes, tend to last for several minutes. For some women they’re mild, but others say their flushes make them feel like they’re trapped in a furnace.

    Hot flushes are a common symptom of the menopause, but hot flushes can also occur for reasons.

    Hot flushes triggers: the main culprits

    Common triggers include:

    • spicy food
    • hot food and drinks
    • caffeine
    • alcohol
    • smoking
    • stress
    • tight clothing
    • hot baths
    • using a hairdryer

    Identifying and steering clear of your own ‘triggers’ can help to reduce the frequency and severity of your flushes.

    How can you treat hot flushes?

    • HRT

    HRT (hormone replacement therapy) is the most effective known treatment for hot flushes. It works by replenishing the hormones that are no longer produced by the ovaries after menopause, and it often gets rid of symptoms completely.

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    Combined HRT patches that contain both oestrogen and progestogen seem to be most effective.

    • Other medications

    If you don’t want to take HRT, other prescription medicines, including certain antidepressants and clonidine (usually prescribed to help with blood pressure) might help.

    • Stay cool

    Heat seems to trigger flushes for some women. Using a fan and taking cooler baths and showers can help, as can wearing layered clothing and switching your duvet for layers of sheets. And weird as it sounds, some women wear socks to bed to lower their core body temperature!

    You could also try cooling gels or placing a cold compress on the back of your neck when you feel a hot flush coming on.

    • Practise relaxation and meditation tactics

    Some women find practising slow, deep abdominal breathing for 15 minutes in the morning and evening, as well as when a hot flush starts, helps to control their symptoms. Meditation, yoga or tai chi also seem to help in some cases.

    • Target your diet

    Phytoestrogens, found in plant foods like soy beans, chickpeas, lentils, ground flaxseed and red clover, have a similar chemical makeup to oestrogen. There is some evidence that eating foods rich in phytoestrogens can help to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flushes, because of it’s

    Supplements for hot flushes

    Some women find that non-prescription medications and menopause supplements help with their hot flush symptoms.

    Folic acid: Taking 1 mg folic acid a day has been found to reduce the severity, duration and frequency of hot flushes

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    Vitamin E: Taking 400 IU vitamin E a day has also been found to reduce the severity and frequency of hot flushes

    Ibuprofen: Some women find that taking an anti-inflammatory non-steroidal painkiller like ibuprofen relieves their hot flush symptoms

    Complimentary therapies

    There is some evidence that black cohosh and isoflavone supplements can help to reduce symptoms.

    Some women use red clover, dong quai, evening primrose oil or kava to treat hot flush symptoms, but there’s currently little evidence to support their effectiveness.

    Always talk to your doctor before trying a complimentary medicine, as they can have nasty side effects or interfere with other medication.

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