I have hot flashes several times a week. How can I manage them without taking medication?

Answers from Shannon K. Laughlin-Tommaso, M.D.

You may be able to reduce the intensity and severity of your hot flashes by controlling your physical environment or adopting certain behaviors.

Since ambient temperatures may affect how frequent and severe your hot flashes are, keeping your environment — and your body — cool can help.

To keep your body from overheating, follow these tips:

  • Remain in cool temperatures or air-conditioned areas.
  • Keep air circulating around you with a fan or the breeze from an open window.
  • Dress in layers and remove clothing when you become warmer.
  • Wear open-weave cotton clothing to allow air to pass over your skin.
  • Avoid drinking warm beverages, eating spicy foods, using tobacco, consuming caffeine and drinking alcohol.

Certain behavioral strategies might also help you manage hot flashes:

  • Practice slow, deep breathing — known as paced respiration — when you feel a hot flash coming on.
  • Participate in relaxation exercises, such as yoga or meditation.
  • Consider acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine practice that involves inserting thin needles through your skin.
  • Try hypnosis, a mind-body therapy that brings about deep relaxation and heightened focus.

Paced respiration and relaxation exercises work best with proper instruction. Ask your doctor for recommendations on where to learn more.

Studies on acupuncture have had mixed results. In some studies, acupuncture improved hot flashes, and in others, no benefit was noted. Acupuncture has very few side effects or risks when performed by a trained acupuncturist and may be beneficial to some women. More research is needed, though.

Hypnosis — useful for managing medical conditions such as pain, anxiety and insomnia — may relieve hot flashes by reducing anxiety and stress. Preliminary research shows that hypnosis successfully relieved hot flashes in women with breast cancer by reducing the number of hot flashes experienced each day. Research into this potential treatment for hot flashes continues.


Shannon K. Laughlin-Tommaso, M.D.

March 25, 2014