Hot flushes and how to cope

Women's Health

Most women will experience hot flushes when going through the menopause.

They're often described as a sudden feeling of heat that seems to come from nowhere and spreads throughout the body. You might also experience sweating, palpitations, and flushing of the face. Some women only have occasional hot flushes that don't really bother them, while others can have many a day, and find them uncomfortable, disruptive and embarrassing. Hot flushes can start a few months or years before your periods stop (before you start the menopause), and usually continue for several years after your last period. Hot flushes usually affect women who are approaching the menopause and are thought to be caused by changes in your hormone levels affecting your body's temperature control.

They can happen without warning throughout the day and night, but can also be triggered by:

 

  • eating certain foods – such as spicy foods or those containing monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • drinking alcohol or coffee
  • wearing woolly jumpers – especially polo necks
  • a fever
  • feeling stressed
  • anxiety or a panic disorder
  • treatment for certain types of cancer (this can affect both men and women)
  • certain medications
  • some health conditions – such as an overactive thyroid, diabetes, tuberculosis and certain types of cancer

 

Many women learn to live with menopause-related hot flushes, but if they're really bothering you and interfering with your day to day life, talk to your GP about treatments that may help. The most effective treatment for hot flushes is hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which usually completely gets rid of them. Your doctor will talk to you about the benefits and risks of using HRT. If you've had a type of cancer that's sensitive to hormones, such as breast cancer, your doctor won't recommend HRT and will talk to you about alternatives.

You can try these tips to ease your symptoms:

  • cut out or reduce coffee and tea
  • stop smoking
  • keep the room cool and use a fan (electric or handheld) if necessary
  • if you feel a flush coming on, spray your face with cool water or use a cold gel pack (available from pharmacies)
  • wear loose layers of light cotton or silk clothes so you can easily take some clothes off if you overheat
  • have layers of sheets on the bed rather than a duvet so you can remove them as you need to
  • cut down on alcohol
  • sip cold or iced drinks
  • have a lukewarm shower or bath instead of a hot one
  • if medicine is causing your hot flushes, talk to your doctor about other ways you can take it to avoid this side effect

 

If you would like to find out more, visit the Health Advice section and read more on Hot Flushes: How to Cope

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