Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

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Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(3):467

What is a hot flash?

For most women, a hot flash is a warm feeling from the chest up to the head. During a hot flash, you may have a headache or flushed skin, or feel your heart beating faster. You may also start to sweat or feel queasy or dizzy.

What can I do about hot flashes?

Many women have taken hormones called estrogen (say: ES-tro-jen) and progesterone (say: pro-JES-ter-own) to help with hot flashes. But these may put you more at risk of cancer and other illnesses.

If your doctor says you should not take hormone medicines, or if you do not want to, you could try a medicine without hormones (a nonhormonal medicine; see box). Some of these medicines may help some women with hot flashes. They don’t work for everyone, though (and they need more testing).

Remember that herbal medicines are not monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Ask your doctor about any herbal product you take.

Antidepressants (SSRIs)

  • Some antidepressants (medicines for depression) known as SSRIs may help with hot flashes. These include paroxetine (one brand: Paxil) and venlafaxine (one brand: Effexor).

  • Side effects: SSRIs may cause difficulty sleeping, excitement, nausea, constipation, or loss of appetite.

Clonidine (one brand: Catapres)

  • Clonidine may help with hot flashes.

  • Side effects: clonidine may cause dry mouth, constipation, or sleepiness.

Soy, Red Clover, Black Cohosh

  • Soy, red clover, or black cohosh help some women with hot flashes. They have not been tested for long-time use.

  • Side effects: these medicines may have side effects but none have been reported.

Others

  • Some women have used these medicines, but there is very little information on whether they are helpful for hot flashes.

    Prescription medicines: Bellergal (belladonna/ergotamine tartrate/phenobarbital), gabapentin (one brand: Neurontin), mirtazapine (one brand: Remeron)

    Herbal medicines: Dong quai, evening primrose oil, ginseng, vitamin E, wild yam

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

Consumer lab Web site (http://www.consumerlab.com)

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