Hot flushes: how to cope

By Siski Green, Monday 4 August 2014

Learn more about hot flushes, one of the most common menopause symptoms, with our guide to remedies and treatments.
Hot flushHerbal supplements, medical drugs, yoga - what works for hot flushes?
Going through menopause you may never experience hot flushes, but many women do. It’s a feeling of intense warmth that spreads over your body. It can also include sweating and a red flush. While that may not sound so terrible it can be disorienting, as well as cause a great deal of discomfort – and, as it can occur at night, it can disrupt sleep, further reducing quality of life.

Get the gadgets out. What do you do when there’s a heatwave? Put those same tools to use when you experience hot flushes. So dig out the electric fan, or handheld version, wear loose fitting clothing and if necessary, keep a small cool pack with you containing a cold gel pack. You can also buy Magicool or other similar spray products that help cool you down when you need.

Breathe. One very small study (only 33 women) published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that controlled breathing for 15 minutes twice a day helped reduce hot flushes by half, compared to biofeedback treatment (in simple terms, this is where your brain activity is monitored, with the aim of training your brain to calm down). Controlled breathing involves inhaling for a count of five, then exhaling for a count of five, repeating this over the 15-minute period.

Ice. Cooling yourself fully just as you feel a hot flush coming on can sometimes be enough to stop it in its tracks. With this in mind, one manufacturer has come up with the Menopod. This is a small device about the size of a computer mouse that activates copper pads which then can be used to cool your skin. You hold it against your neck when you feel a hot flush coming on and so, in theory, the hot flush will dissipate before it has even started properly. Of course, there are other ways you can do the same if you’re at home – ice, a cool pack, a bag of peas, all will help.

Yoga. Like progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing up each group of muscles, then relaxing them, yoga and meditation have both been found to help reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms.

Exercise. It might feel like the last thing you want to do when you’re breaking out in hot sweats but regular exercise is an excellent way to ward off the sudden onset of feeling warm. A study from Penn State University, US, found that exercise helped prevent the onset of hot flushes in the 24 hours after physical activity.

Black cohosh. Research on whether this herb is effective or not is contradictory – large scale studies have yet to be done – but, as there are few side effects associated with black cohosh, it could be worth trying.

Pine bark. One small Japanese study found that pine bark supplement helped relieve hot flushes as well as other menopause-related symptoms.

Acupuncture. One study from Stanford University found that acupuncture was effective in decreasing the severity of women’s experiences with hot flushes, but didn’t reduce the frequency.


Evening primrose oil. Studies have produced contradictory results on this one, some finding an improvement in hot flush symptoms, others finding it worked no better than a placebo. It does produce side effects in some people, including inflammation and problems with blood clotting. For this reason, speak to your doctor about taking evening primrose oil before you do so.

Folic acid.
This seems to be very effective at improving hot flushes – one study from the University of Alexandria, Egypt, showed a 65% reduction – but once women stopped taking folic acid, the hot flushes returned.

HRT. Hormone replacement therapy is very effective at reducing unwanted side effects of menopause but at a cost – there is a risk of side effects such as weight gain, sore breasts, nausea and headaches. And long-term use can increase your risk of certain cancers. Have a discussion with your doctor and weigh up your personal needs before you make a decision.

Antidepressants. Some research has found that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) help reduce the frequency of hot flushes. However, symptoms returned once women stopped taking the medication.

Gabapentin. One very small study found that it reduced the frequency of hot flushes by around 15% more than a placebo.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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  • fiona

    Posted: Tuesday 02 September 2014

    I have been going through the menopause for the last 5 years I started early at the age of 35, I'm on hrt which does help but a few days before my period is due I suffer terrible flushes at night and I am left with a bad headache and low mood and heavy bleeding.

  • Susie Brooker

    Posted: Monday 01 September 2014

    I started flushing aged 38 and am now 60.In the past I found sage helpful but it didn't stop all flushes. Eventually I tried hrt but grew huge fibroids. Doc removed uterus, ovaries and cervix (sister had invasive cancer) I took unopposed oestrogen for quite a while but raised bp and weight gain made my gp stop it. It's not the flushes, it's the awful feeling that precedes it. An awful heart sinking. Flush follows in 2-5 mins. Think I might try sage again. Does anyone else get awful feelng?

  • Christine bolingbroke

    Posted: Tuesday 12 August 2014

    Re the hot flashes article and taking Gabapentin. I take 900mg of Gabapentin a day for medical reasons and I have horrendous hot flashes so I'm afraid the theory of it helping reduce the hot flashes is out the window !!

  • Stephanie

    Posted: Monday 11 August 2014

    I had total hysterectomy 15 years ago. I was prescribed HRT estrogen patch until this past May. Hot flashes are debilitating, especially at night. I tried to slowly wean off the patch by cutting it in half. That did not seem to help so I went completely without. I awaken every two hours sweating and miserable. I'm not sure what to do except cut out caffeine, sugar, alcohol and exercise daily.

  • Linda Howard

    Posted: Sunday 10 August 2014

    The only thing I have used that helps is a fan, I switch it on when I get into bed and turn it off when I get up in the morning, I only have a top sheet over me in bed even in the winter and no heating in the bedroom. I also bought a chill pillow from Amazon that works quite well. I put it inside my pillow case and it feels really cold and helps me to get off to sleep but I do wake up when the pillow is hot, secret have two and swop when one gets hot

  • Bela

    Posted: Thursday 07 August 2014

    I started having night Hot flushes and menopause symptoms ( aged 50) so after a while I went to my naturopath who recommended Metagenics, Oestrocalm 2 caps a day morn and night, Resilian 2 caps a day morn and night and hey presto no more hot flushes almost within two days of taking the supplements!! I think you need to have the practitioner level supplements and consultation for your specific needs.

  • Erica

    Posted: Tuesday 05 August 2014

    I'm 53, periods stopped within the last year. Was on the lowest dose of HRT at the time and have recently stopped taking it. My experience is that the hot flushes were reduced but now here with a vengeance. I would say HRT stalls flushes but there's no escape afterwards!

  • Andrea

    Posted: Saturday 02 August 2014

    I'm 43 this year and iv been in bed for 4 days now with the most shocking hot flushes I keep taking paracetamol and taking my temp but its ok I feel so tired look like crap and the hot flushes are shocking I haven't been sleeping for days am I to young to b going through menepause please help I do t no what's happening to me all I no is that it's making me feel ill I kept thinking is it my period although my periods have been strange for the past year but I had the coil fitted last year thanks x

  • sunita kaur

    Posted: Saturday 02 August 2014

    hello everyone,i have just started with the menopause about 1 year ago and omg the hot flushes are the worst,i can sweat buckets throught the day and dont even get me started over night time,i wake up sweating down my back and the heat that comes from my head seriously put your heaters away and just warm your hands on my head lol. anyways i was wondering how long dose this menopause lasts for and whats the best herbal treatment as i have arthritis aswell. much appricated and good luck to you all

  • Charlene Hartley

    Posted: Tuesday 22 July 2014

    Hi I am 25 and I've been having hot flushes since I was 16. I have them every day sometimes for 8 hrs a day and sometimes for a few hours. I really have tried every specialist every doctor and they still cant find a cause! If anyone finds anyways to deal with this it would be greatly appreciated. Its effecting every aspect of my life and really bringing me down.

  • Rachel

    Posted: Thursday 17 July 2014

    Hello to all sufferers!!
    I read all your comments and first off I'm relieved to know I am not alone in this dark world of embarrassing hot flushes! As I read though, I start to cry again, I feel I have tried everything going but nothing seems to stop this awful hot flush! Sometimes it is so embarrassing it feel like never going out again;what's the point I ask myself, your makeup runs down with the heaviest of droplets of sweat, your hair , looks like I just got out of shower!! Please help x

  • Eve

    Posted: Wednesday 16 July 2014

    Started the hot flushes 10 years ago (now 69)was on HRT at 50 it was great but they took me off it. Tried all the health shop remedies, nothing worked, Doctor gave me Chlonidine, didn't work, went to see a Prof who was doing a paper on all of this told me it can continue until I am 80. That for me was just about the last straw, have been offered sleeping pills but do not want to go down that road, so if anyone has a solution let me know, I am going try acupuncture next week, wish me luck.

  • Jill

    Posted: Wednesday 16 July 2014

    I am 49, I had two heart attacks at the age of 42 ! Unreal, size 10 lo. Anyway I can not take HRT but I wish I could, I have hot sweats every hour day and night accompanied by feeling unwell. Sometimes I feel sick other times just horrid. I have looked at alternatives but they only appear to delay it, so my thoughts are try and get through it. The hardest for me is disturbed nights sleep and a feeling of "low" but I have never been so happy in regard to my home and work life so that's annoying.

  • Maggie B

    Posted: Monday 14 July 2014

    I am 65 years old and now notice the times when I am cool as opposed to burning up. This has been going on for over 20 years. HRT helped a little but I cannot take it now as I had breast cancer. I have been down the natural route but short of a miracle, I think this is it. Once in a while, I just conk out on the sofa and go in and out of sleep for a few hours which recharges my battery. By this point I am so exhausted I can't even manage to be boiling hot!

  • christine

    Posted: Sunday 13 July 2014

    i am 73yrs old and having more sevire sweats than befor dr offered me a tablet that could be for incontenent people he said it would dry up the sweats but i would get a dry throat so i never take the tablets and ime not incontenent yet, so i am not going to add more problems than already got i would like a remedy with no side efects if there is one , thankyou

  • Sue Pearson

    Posted: Sunday 22 June 2014

    I am 47 an have been suffering on and of with hot flushes for about the last 2 and a half years. I am currently taking Sage which I,m not sure is helping as I still have between 5 and 10 a day, some good days and bad days and I do get them at night as well. One thing I,ve found is that I always carry a fan or something to fan myself with when I have an attack, which does work, but I have to do it quite vigorously. I also seem to know when one is coming as I get an odd moment of feeling unwell.

  • Varsha

    Posted: Friday 20 June 2014

    I was 41 when I started early menapause. It took the doctors 6 months to confirm from blood tests that this was the case, in which time I had hot flushes. Then I started taking an Aloe Vera Gel Drink for something else and quite by accident realised I wasn't having any hot flushes. Unfortunately after 12 months of being hot flush free, they have come back along with the night sweats and insomnia. I don't know why I bother trying to sleep as I spend more time adjusting the fan and duvet.

  • Peggy

    Posted: Monday 16 June 2014

    I had a mastectomy 9 years ago I was told I could no longer take HRT. I started having hot flushes straight away and have have them ever since. I have been on Dixarit and am now on Chlonidine but still get them, more severely during the night which means I never sleep for long without having a sweat. I am 66 and have been told by my doctor that they may go on until I am well into my seventies. Please help if you have found a cure! Here's hoping.

  • Lesley

    Posted: Tuesday 10 June 2014

    53 and have been in the menopause since I was 42 - I run, aerobics, cycle etc. tried HRT, great with the hot flushes and sweats, but made me bleed, having not bled since 42, now prescribed Dixarit, day 7 and still flushing ugh!

  • Carole Barlow

    Posted: Tuesday 03 June 2014

    I am 68 years old and after being on HRT for many years my doctor advise me that I could no longer have it. I have now been suffering for months with hot flushes, night sweats and all the other horrible things that go with the menopause. Two weeks ago I visited Holland & Barrett looking for a natural product. Sage was recommended in capsule form. Already my hot flushes, night sweats etc have reduced. I am crossing my fingers that this will continue.

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