Have you ever just been getting
on with your life when, without warning
and for no reason, your body is suddenly
transfused with heat, which, after
a time, seems to disappear as suddenly as it
appeared? If you answered YES, welcome to the HOT FLASH CLUB!
The dreaded hot flash is possibly the most talked about symptom of menopause, but it also tends to be the one we’re most confused about: some women are lucky enough to have such mild symptoms they’re not even sure they’ve had a ‘real’ one, while others describe truly terrifying experiences involving palpitations and even nausea or headaches!
The fact is, most women will experience hot flashes during menopause, in varying degrees: you may just feel uncomfortably hot and get a bit sweaty, flushed or blotchy for a matter of seconds... Or you may be one of the not-so-lucky ones who run through the whole gamut of unpleasantly hot, sweaty discomfort that can last for as much as 10 minutes, leaving you drenched, chilled and shaky.
Then, some women have them rarely, while others are stricken multiple times daily, often causing uncomfortable, disruptive and embarrassing situations.
Causes of hot flashes
The considered theory
is that hot flashes are caused by changes in your hormonal levels, which in
turn affect your body’s temperature control. However, while they occur
with no warning, day or night, there may also be some external triggers, eg:
Caffeine and alcohol
Stress or anxiety
Certain medications or cancer treatments
Some health conditions, eg, overactive thyroid, diabetes or tuberculosis
IMPORTANT: Hot flashes are usually harmless, but if you think medicines or a health condition may be the cause of yours (especially if you have other issues like fatigue, weakness, weight loss or diarrhea) PLEASE TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR.
Tips that may relieve hot flashes
We asked friends, family and the faithful internet to list some actions that may help you lessen the discomfort and even frequency of your attacks:
Reduce (or even cut out) caffeinated coffee and tea intake
Stick to cold or iced drinks
Cut down on alcohol
Keep your rooms as cool as possible, with fans or air-conditioning
Always have a fan in your bag – better yet, invest in a battery-operated model
Use a cool water atomiser handy to spray your face when it gets hot – and keep a cold gel-pack in the icebox
Wear layers in light cottons or silks, to peel off when you overheat
Choose a lightweight duvet (if any) and avoid tucked-in sheets, so you can push them off freely during night sweats
Avoid hot showers and baths – go lukewarm
Many women learn to live with menopause-related hot flashes – but if they start interfering with your everyday life, it could be time to speak to your healthcare professional about Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), or other scheduled medications.
If you prefer complementary therapies, or a natural alternative like black cohosh, please seek professional advice before embarking on any such course, as adverse side effects have been known to occur.
Up to 80% of menopausal women get hot flashes, for between 6 months and 2 years. They can start a few months (even years) before your periods stop, and continue for several years afterwards, stopping when the menopausal transition is complete – which is the GOOD news. The BAD news is that many women continue to get them afterwards, even into their 70s and 80s! However long yours are around, we hope this article helps make the burden of hot flashes a little easier for you to bear!
*This blog post is purely informative and in no way provides any medical advice.