Treating Hot Flashes

Written by Clinical Research Associates Staff Members

Any woman who has experienced hot flashes knows they are an affliction. Hot flashes can occur suddenly with heat throughout your upper body and face. The frequency and severity of these episodes vary greatly. Suffering hot flashes may last anywhere from a few months to many years. The good news is that mild to moderate hot flashes can usually be managed with lifestyle changes. More severe symptoms can be treated with hormone therapy or other prescription medication.

The North American Menopause Society calls hot flashes "the hallmark signs of perimenopause." Perimenopause is the time interval in which your body transitions to menopause. These flashes have symptoms like:

  • flushing
  • perspiration
  • feeling of mild warmth
  • intense heat spreading across your face and upper body.

In addition, rapid heartbeat and chills can also accompany hot flashes as the feeling of warmth subsides.

Mild hot flashes, which happen only a few times a day and do not interfere with normal activities, can be helped by the following lifestyle modifications:

  • keeping your body temperature cool
  • getting regular exercise
  • avoiding stress
  • practicing relaxation techniques

Non-prescription herbal remedies are also used in addition to these lifestyle changes. In clinical trials, however, they have proven to be no more effective than placebos.

For moderate to severe hot flashes (which are more frequent and can make certain daily activities difficult or impossible), the most common treatment options are hormone replacement therapy and nonhormonal prescription drugs. While none of these treatments can cure hot flashes, they can reduce the symptoms.

Off-label nonhormonal prescription medications may also be effective. "Off-label" means that they are aproved by the FDA for other purposes, but have not yet been approved for this purpose. Antidepressants like Effexor and Paxil are being used off-label to treat the symptoms of hot flashes. According to the North American Menopause Society, these antidepressants were effective in studies and had few side effects. Of course, all medications have their risks and benefits. You should always approach your health care provider with any questions you may have about treating your hot flashes.