Hot flushes are by far the most commonly reported symptom for most peri and menopausal women. They can also have a huge impact on your life and are often underestimated.
We still don’t understand why hot flushes happen but it is thought that it might be due to changes in circulation.
They can lead to lack of sleep, embarrassment and discomfort of which the knock-on effect can be huge. You might have stopped socialising, be having issues at work or with attending work or your mental wellbeing may be affected. However, it comes at you, it’s not pleasant to experience them and I’ve put together some tips on how to cope with them better since it’s quite possible you might have them for an average of 7 years!
The first thing to remember is that you can’t prevent hot flushes so it’s really all about avoiding any triggers and managing the impact.
1. Identify your triggers……
It can be helpful to really understand what triggers your hot flushes. The only real effective way to do this is to keep a proper diary. This will help you record information about your hot flushes as they occur rather than relying on memory after the fact. Yes, it can be a pain but even just doing it for a couple of weeks can be valuable. Luckily I have a free symptom diary you can download here! If you can identify things that trigger your hot flushes, it makes it easier to avoid them and therefore avoid the hot flushes. These are some common triggers but you may also have others:
- spicy food
- tight clothing
Now, this is not to say that you have to give up things that you enjoy (obvs the stress would be nice to give up!), but if you know what triggers it you can reduce triggers or choose when you’ll indulge with the expectation that you will have flushes afterward. So for example, if you’re going on holiday and need to leave the house at 4 am for your flight, you might want to avoid drinking a couple of glasses of wine the night before to make sure you get a decent sleep.
2. Continue to enjoy your faves……
Identifying triggers doesn’t then mean eliminating all the things you like from your life or being miserable forevermore. It’s such a ball ache that the things we like the most are not good for us, isn’t it?!
- If spicy curries are a problem, start experimenting with different milder curries on the menu instead.
- Switch to decaf coffee and tea
- Experiment with different types of alcohol and be aware of how much triggers a hot flush. You can then plan better. If you’re going on a night out, consider alternating drinks with water or soft drinks to help you drink less. I mean, this is also good for you in general anyway!
- It goes without saying that giving up smoking will also be good for you in general and you might not be ready to quit. But consider your options such as vapes etc and pop along to your local smoking cessation clinic for advice on what your options might be for support with quitting.
3. Managing the ambient temperature
- Knock your thermostat down a couple of degrees in the house.
- Ask at work about being able to have a fan near you if it’s not possible to turn off heaters where you work. You are entitled to ask for this type of support as a reasonable adjustment.
- Air your bedroom during the day if possible to have fresh cooler air circulating. This is also good for night times too if it’s not too cold.
4. Adjust your wardrobe
Wearing appropriate clothing can make a huge difference. Tight and restrictive clothing can trigger hot flushes and make them feel worse. Try to stick to loose clothing where you can.
Layering your clothes is also helpful as you can then add or take away layers depending on how you’re feeling. This is particularly helpful in seasons like spring and autumn when temperatures can fluctuate a lot and one minute it’s warm but the next it’s snowing!
Think about the material your clothing is made of too. Natural fabrics such as cotton are good as they are breathable. Try to avoid materials like polyester and nylon. These are likely to make you feel even hotter once you have a hot flush as the heat can’t go anywhere and stays trapped between your body and the clothing.
If you wear a uniform to work, speak to your manager about alternatives or alternative fabrics. It’s often possible to come up with compromises or alternatives but you won’t know unless you ask.
5. Overnight management
Night sweats is the term used to describe hot flushes that occur during the night. They can be a bit of a mare as they can interrupt your sleep routine and lead to other issues such as feeling tired and unable to concentrate during the day, feeling irritable and generally unwell.
- Think about your bedding. Similarly, with your clothes, think about the materials and layers. For example, if you usually have a big thick quilt, think about swapping it for a sheet and either a lighter quilt or light blanket.
- Use a cooling pillow or mat. You can buy these relatively cheaply online. I use one that’s designed for dogs! Still does the job though!
- Instead of a hot water bottle, have a cold water bottle! Fill a hot water bottle no more than 2/3 full. This is because frozen water expands so it will need room to do this. Pop it in the freezer and then put it in your bed 30 mins before you go to bed. This will cool it down nicely and remain cold for a few hours afterward. It’s also worthwhile to have a hot water bottle that you only use for cold water as the seal can be affected by the freezing and could leak. This is fine when it’s cold but you don’t want to scald yourself come winter!!
- Use a cooling towel. I bought mine from Amazon years ago for about £6 and it’s great. It’s made of special material and you just soak it with cold water, wring it out and then “snap” the towel a few times. I then wrap it around my neck as I find this keeps the rest of my body quite cool too. You could wrap it around your head or your ankles though, whatever is comfortable.
- Carry instant ice packs. These are those ones you see in first aid kits where you press or snap them and they activate a cold reaction. They are generally quite small so can be popped in your bag or on your bedside table. They will usually stay cold for 30 – 45 minutes and you can buy packs of them quite cheaply.
Hopefully, you’ll find something that works for you amongst that lot but also remember that there are other options if your hot flushes are significantly impacting your day-to-day life.
HRT can be really effective for managing hot flushes and is very safe to take for many women. You can find more info about HRT in this post. Speak to your GP for advice on which one might be best for you or feel free to contact me for a chat about it.
There are also a number of other prescription medications that can be useful:
- Low-dose anti-depressants like fluoxetine, paroxetine, or venlafaxine
- Clonidine, a blood pressure medication
- Gabapentin, an anti-epileptic drug
- Brisdelle, paroxetine formulated specifically for hot flushes
- Duavive, a conjugated oestrogen/bazedoxifene formula designed to treat hot flushes
If you are struggling with hot flushes I’d love to hear what things have worked for you. If you still struggle to manage symptoms or are feeling generally overwhelmed with menopause, please get in touch for a chat about how I might be able to help you. It’s often easier than you think and could make a big difference once you’ve got some direction and support.