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What is the Best Treatment for Hot Flashes?

A. Pasbjerg
Updated May 17, 2024
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Women going through menopause often experience hot flashes, which are the sudden onset of the sensation of heat throughout the body that can cause discomfort, sweating, and flushing for several minutes. They are thought to be a result of decreasing hormone levels in the body. Hot flashes are not dangerous or harmful, but they may cause physical or mental discomfort, and if they occur at night they can disrupt sleep. While it is not considered necessary to do so if they are well tolerated, many women choose to seek out treatment for hot flashes because of the unpleasant sensations they cause.

For many years, the standard treatment for hot flashes was hormone replacement therapy. Doctors would typically prescribe estrogen, progesterone, or combinations of both, which are available in pill or patch form. Long-term studies have revealed, however, that hormone therapy carries the risk of some very serious side effects, particularly cancer, heart attack, and stroke. Hormone replacement therapy is still used, but due to the risks, doctors and patients are more likely to review the individual person's medical history and how hormone replacement may affect her, and to try to minimize the time hormones are used.

Some other medications have been shown to be effective when used as a treatment for hot flashes. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are a type of anti-depressant that can be taken at low doses to reduce them. The anti-seizure medication Gabapentin may also offer some relief. Clonidine, typically used to treat high blood pressure, has been helpful in alleviating hot flashes for some women. Alternative forms of progesterone have also been used with some success.

There are certain alternatives to prescription medications that may be useful for treatment for hot flashes, though there is limited scientific data to confirm it. Phytoestrogens, which are plant-derived estrogens, such as the isoflavones found in soy, lentils, and red clover are thought to help decrease their effects. The herbal supplement black cohosh is popularly used for the symptoms of menopause. Other supplements that have been promoted as possible treatments include evening primrose oil, licorice, and vitamin E.

Lifestyle changes and behavior modification can also make a difference in minimizing hot flashes. Keeping cool by wearing light clothing and controlling the environmental temperature with fans or air conditioning can help. Exercise, deep breathing, and other stress reduction techniques may make a difference. Alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods, which can all trigger hot flashes, should probably be avoided.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
A. Pasbjerg
By A. Pasbjerg
Andrea Pasbjerg, a WiseGeek contributor, holds an MBA from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Her business background helps her to create content that is both informative and practical, providing readers with valuable insights and strategies for success in the business world.

Discussion Comments

By irontoenail — On Dec 06, 2014

@bythewell - People who are going through menopause should still go and see a doctor though, even if they think they have it all under control. It's a perfect time to have a checkup and there are other consequences to menopause that aren't as well known as hot flashes.

Osteoporosis can become an issue, for example, as can other kinds of disease. And there's always the possibility that it isn't menopause at all, but symptoms of something.

Most doctors will be happy for you to use a herbal treatment for hot flashes, because that is the biggest complaint and dosing it with hormones is probably overkill considering the possible side effects. But it's still a conversation you need to have with a medical professional, not least so they know what you're taking in case something does go wrong.

By bythewell — On Dec 05, 2014

@Fa5t3r - I've heard that the most effective treatment for hot flashes, aside from hormones, is sage tea. Even doctors will recommend it and it's nothing more than ordinary kitchen sage brewed in hot water.

It reduces fevers of all kinds though, so be careful about using it too much. Apparently it's so effective that it can mask a serious illness by suppressing the fever so you don't think it's serious.

By Fa5t3r — On Dec 04, 2014

While my mother was going through this, she basically didn't take anything for the hot flashes. I don't even think she saw a doctor about it, which I'm not sure I agree with. She just realized that she was at the right age to be going through menopause and accepted it as a part of life.

For a while she suffered with the hot flashes though, both directly and indirectly (through embarrassment). She doesn't like taking medication unnecessarily, but I wish she had looked for a natural treatment for hot flashes that might have helped to ease the transition.

A. Pasbjerg

A. Pasbjerg

Andrea Pasbjerg, a WiseGeek contributor, holds an MBA from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Her business background helps her to create content that is both informative and practical, providing readers with valuable insights and strategies for success in the business world.
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