Symptoms of menopause – how to help hot flushes

Samantha Wild
Clinical Lead for Women's Health and Bupa GP
04 August 2022
Next review due August 2025

Sometimes called ‘the change of life’, going through the menopause is a natural biological process. Changes in your menstrual cycle usually start during your 40s. Once the menopause starts, your ovaries stop producing as much of the hormone oestrogen. This drop in oestrogen levels not only stops your periods, but it can also cause some unpleasant side-effects.

A pensive woman

As many as eight in 10 people who go through the menopause experience hot flushes (also known as hot flashes). So, if you’re feeling hot and bothered during this phase of life, you’re not alone. Here, I’ll explain exactly what happens to your body when you have a hot flush. I’ll also share my top tips on how you can help get hot flushes under control.

What do hot flushes feel like?

If you’re having a hot flush, you may experience:

  • a sudden feeling of heat spreading through your body and face
  • a red flush spreading across your chest, neck, face and head
  • sweating
  • changes in your mood
  • a lack of concentration

How long do hot flushes last?

A hot flush can occur at any time of the day, and usually lasts several minutes, but an average is around four minutes. You may have them a couple of a times of week or up to every hour. Hot flushes that happen at night are known as night sweats. You may carry on getting them for several years after your periods stop.

How can you deal with hot flushes?

There are some things you can do to help manage hot flushes yourself. Try these tips to stay cool, calm and collected.

Avoid triggers. Although hot flushes can be unpredictable, you might find they’re worse after drinking alcohol or caffeine, smoking, after eating spicy food or when you’re stressed, for example. Try keeping a diary for a few weeks to see whether you notice a link or trigger.

Dress lightly. Wearing lighter clothing made of natural, breathable fabrics, such as cotton, silk, or soft wool, might help you to keep cool. Go for looser styles rather than tighter ones. During the colder months, wear a few light layers so you can easily take clothes off when you feel a hot flush coming on.

Layer your bed linen. The same principle applies at bedtime. Try to keep your room cool. Rather than using one heavy duvet, try layering a few light blankets and sheets made from natural fabrics. Sheets made with 100% cotton are usually cool and comfortable.

Use a fan. Keep a fan in your bedroom and on your desk for times when you need to cool down. You can also carry a battery-powered mini-fan in your bag or go for vintage glamour with a traditional hand-held fan.

Carry a cooling spray. Keep a small spray bottle in your bag, on your desk or close to hand when you’re at home. Fill it with water and give yourself a little spritz to cool down during a hot flush.

Take a lukewarm shower. When you take a shower, aim for a temperature that’s warm, rather than hot.

Lead a healthy lifestyle. Following a healthy lifestyle can help with many other symptoms of menopause, not just hot flushes. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, drink sensibly and don’t smoke. This will also help to reduce your risk of developing heart disease and osteoporosis, as the risk of these is higher after menopause.

Is there a treatment for hot flushes?

How severe and how frequent your hot flushes are will differ for everyone. If you’re finding it difficult to manage your hot flushes with the tips above, there are other approaches you may be able to try.

Supplements and complementary therapies

Some people try supplements and complementary or alternative remedies to ease their menopause symptoms. It’s important to note that supplements come in many different preparations and their quality, purity and safety varies. Speak to your GP before trying a supplement or remedy as some can interact with other medications you might be taking. Some people find that acupuncture or relaxation techniques help them with menopausal symptoms, but there is little evidence to support their use.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and other medications

Your GP can also talk to you about hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which replaces lost oestrogen. It’s the most effective treatment for hot flushes and other common symptoms of the menopause. Your GP can explain the risks and benefits of taking HRT.

If you decide not to take HRT, or if it’s not recommended for you, there are other non-hormonal medications available. If hot flushes are affecting your day-to-day life, talk to your GP about what might work for you.

If you’re experiencing menopause symptoms, you don’t have to face them alone. With a Bupa Menopause Plan, you can discuss symptoms with a specially trained GP, get a personalised care plan based around your needs with access to 24/7 support via Anytime HealthLine.

Samantha Wild
Dr Samantha Wild
Clinical Lead for Women's Health and Bupa GP

    • Menopause – symptoms and signs of menopause. MSD Manuals., last reviewed August 2021
    • Hot flushes. Patient., last edited 29 Jan 2018
    • Menopause. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries., last revised March 2022.
    • Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health., last updated May 2017
    • HRT and alternatives. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists., accessed 1 July 2022
    • Bansal R, Aggarwal N. Menopausal hot flashes: a concise review. J Midlife Health 2019;10(1):6-13. doi: 10.4103/jmh.JMH_7_19

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