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How Long Do Hot Flashes Last?

Marygrace Taylor

Written by Marygrace Taylor

Marygrace Taylor

Written by Marygrace Taylor

Hot flashes are one of the first things that come to mind when most people think of menopause. The sudden bursts of intense, uncomfortable warmth are a hallmark symptom of this transitional period, affecting up to 8 in 10 US women.1

But while you might expect that hot flashes will strike at some point during perimenopause or menopause, you may not be so clear on when they'll end. While experts don't have all the answers, knowing what's typical may give you an idea on how long your hot flashes will last for. 

Hear more about hot flashes during menopause from Bonafide Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Alyssa Dweck, below: 

Anatomy of a Hot Flash

Experts don't fully understand why hot flashes happen. Fluctuations of the hormones estrogen and progesterone are thought to impact the hypothalamus, the area of the brain responsible for temperature regulation, amongst other functions.

With hot flashes, as a result of lower estrogen, the hypothalamus senses your body is too warm. As a result, it takes immediate action to cool you down: Your blood vessels start to dilate so more blood can flow to the surface of your skin and get rid of excess body heat, causing your face and neck to appear red or flushed. You might also start to sweat or feel like your heart is racing. Towards the end, you may also experience chills or shivering.2

Hot flashes are commonly a result of certain triggers, which can be different for everyone. Common culprits include being in a too-warm room, hot weather, smoking, caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, stress, or tight clothing.3

When Do Hot Flashes Start?

Hot flashes most often kick off about a year after your last period, which on average happens at 51, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).4

It's also not uncommon to start having hot flashes earlier. Around 40% of women begin experiencing hot flashes during perimenopause, which tends to occur in your early to mid-40s. And some may even notice hot flashes hitting around their periods in their late 30s, though these flashes tend to be milder and easier to tolerate.5

It's worth pointing out that hot flashes can potentially occur at other points in a woman's life, too. Occasionally this symptom can stem from problems like thyroid disease, an infection, or in rare instances, cancer. Certain drugs like tamoxifen (for breast cancer), raloxifene (for osteoporosis), and a handful of antidepressants, can also cause hot flashes. So, if you suspect that your hot flashes aren't from menopause or if they're accompanied by other symptoms, be sure to let your healthcare provider know.6 

How Long Does a Single Hot Flash Last?

Hot flashes start to dissipate almost as quickly as they come on, typically lasting less than five minutes. Some women get them a few times per week, but they can also strike up to 10 times per day for others.7

How Long Do Hot Flashes Last After Menopause?

Hot flashes last for about a year on average, with the majority of hot flashes stopping after five years – with an average, 7.4 years.8 But around 10% of women continue to have hot flashes for 10 years or more, and for a few, they never seem to go away completely. Though the uncertainty can be frustrating, there's unfortunately no reliable way to know how long a woman's hot flashes will last, according to experts.9

Managing Hot Flashes in Perimenopause and Menopause

You don't have much say in when your hot flashes might begin or end. But there are steps you can take to reduce their likelihood and stay comfortable when one does hit.

Lifestyle changes like avoiding triggers, dressing in layers, practicing relaxation exercises like yoga, or trying certain supplements can be a good place to start.10 Following a healthy eating pattern like a Mediterranean-style diet or intermittent fasting might be helpful too.

For more support, ask your healthcare provider about prescription medications like hormone replacement therapy or certain antidepressants, like paroxetine. Both are shown to be effective in managing hot flashes.11

Above all, stay hopeful. Even though hot flashes can be frustrating and disruptive, they do tend to ease up for most women within a couple of years. But don’t hesitate to reach out to your provider for help if you find your quality of life is negatively impacted by this symptom.

Resources

  1. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/menopausal-hot-flashes
  2. https://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopause-faqs-hot-flashes
  3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15223-hot-flashes
  4. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/experts-and-stories/the-latest/an-ob-gyns-top-tips-for-managing-hot-flashes
  5. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/menopausal-hot-flashes
  6. https://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopause-faqs-hot-flashes
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539827/
  8. https://www.swanstudy.org/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539827/
  10. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/experts-and-stories/the-latest/an-ob-gyns-top-tips-for-managing-hot-flashes
  11. https://www.menopause.org/for-women/expert-answers-to-frequently-asked-questions-about-menopause/hot-flash-faqs-triggers-symptoms-treatments

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