What is a hot flash? If you’ve ever had a hot flash, you know what it feels like: a sudden feeling of warmth, which spreads over your face, neck and chest. Hot flashes can last anywhere from a couple of seconds to several minutes and often will leave you sweating and/or chilled. The majority of the time, hot flashes are associated with the withdrawal of estrogen, which happens before and during menopause. Some women may experience hot flashes a few times a week and other may have them several times a day. Some women are able to keep hot flashes at bay by making slight changes in their diets, attire or environments. Others may find that hot flashes are disruptive to their lives and may work with their health care providers to find appropriate treatment options. What are some tips to help keep hot flashes at bay? Diet: Pay attention to certain foods that may trigger hot flashes. Common triggers include caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, soy, flaxseed and fish oils can help keep symptoms at bay. It’s also important that you stay hydrated; keeping ice water handy can help you stay cool. Exercise: Exercising during perimenopause and menopause can decrease hot flashes, prevent weight gain and help with depression and sleep disturbances. Attire: Dress in layers so you can remove a layer or two when you feel a hot flash starting. You’ll be cooler in loose fitting clothes made of cotton, linen, rayon or wicking material. Avoid wool, other synthetic fabrics, silk and tight fitting clothes. Environment: Keep your environment cool. Turn the thermostat down, open the windows or use a ceiling fan. At night, keep your bedroom cool to help reduce night sweats and sleep disruptions. It may help if you take a cool shower before bed and wear cotton pajamas or loose fitting fitness clothes that are made of wicking material. You can also try keeping an ice pack under your pillow. When you are outside, try to stay in the shade. Deep breathing: Practice deep breathing, especially when a hot flash starts. Deep breathing transforms our energy from tension to relaxation by turning off our sympathetic nervous system, which produces stress hormones, and turning on our parasympathetic nervous system, which turns off the stress hormone pump. It turns on the body’s “relaxation response,” which involves lowered blood pressure, decreased heart rate and a feeling of calm. Lifestyle changes: If you are a smoker, here’s another reason to quit – smoking is linked to increased hot flashes. If you’re overweight, losing weight may also help reduce hot flashes. Seek medical advice: If the above changes are not helping, talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner.