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Hot flushes

Most women will experience hot flushes when going through the menopause.

They're often described as a sudden feeling of heat that seems to come from nowhere and spreads throughout the body.

You might also experience sweating, palpitations and flushing of the face.

Some women only have occasional hot flushes that do not really bother them, while others can have many a day and find them uncomfortable, disruptive and embarrassing.

Hot flushes can start a few months or years before your periods stop (before you start the menopause) and usually continue for several years after your last period.

Hot flushes usually affect women who are approaching the menopause and are thought to be caused by changes in your hormone levels affecting your body's temperature control.

They can happen without warning throughout the day and night, but can also be triggered by:

Hot flushes are usually harmless. But you should talk to your GP if you're having other symptoms as well, such as feeling generally unwell, fatigue, weakness, weight loss or diarrhoea.

Women often describe a hot flush as a creeping feeling of intense warmth that quickly spreads across your whole body and face.

It typically lasts for several minutes. Others say the warmth is similar to the sensation of being under a sun bed, or feeling like a furnace.

The website healthtalk.org has several videos where women describe what a hot flush feels like.

Many women learn to live with menopause-related hot flushes, but if they're really bothering you and interfering with your day-to-day life, talk to a GP about treatments that may help.

The most effective treatment for hot flushes is hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which usually completely gets rid of them. Your doctor will talk to you about the benefits and risks of using HRT.

If you have had a type of cancer that's sensitive to hormones, such as breast cancer, your doctor will not recommend HRT and will talk to you about alternatives.

Other medicines have been shown to help, including some antidepressants and a medicine called clonidine.

Find out more about treatment for hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms

You can try these tips to ease your symptoms:

Women often turn to complementary therapies as a "natural" way to treat their hot flushes.

There's some evidence that isoflavones or black cohosh may help reduce hot flushes.

But the research is patchy, the quality of the products can vary considerably, they can interfere with some medicines, and they can have side effects (for example, liver damage has been reported with black cohosh).

It's important to talk to your doctor before you take a complementary therapy.

Find out more about complementary therapies