There is nothing worse than being at work and that tingle in your fingertips starts to brew! Panic sets in as my internal flame is lit. I find myself eyeing up the nearest exit and making a run for it! If you struggle with hot flushes, read on and find out triggers, tips, prevention and treatments.
What are hot flushes?
One of the most common menopause symptoms is the hot flush! An estimated 70% of menopausal women in the UK experience them regularly, although the degree of severity varies, (if you’re not stripping off ferociously in the middle of a shopping aisle when one hits, count yourself lucky).
The NHS describes hot flushes as feeling heat out of nowhere that spreads all over the body, often accompanied by sweating, palpitations, and flushing of the face. A hot flush typically lasts for several minutes. At the bottom of this blog is a list of real women’s descriptions of how their hot flushes feel.
What causes hot flushes?
The NHS state that hot flushes are due to changes in hormone levels which then affect your body’s temperature control.
Webmd explains further, determining that hot flushes occur when blood vessels near the surface of the skin surface widen to cool off, making you break out in a sweat. Some women are also known to experience rapid heart rates (palpitations) and/or chills too. When they happen whilst you are sleeping, they are referred to as night sweats. Hot flushes/night sweats can make it hard to get enough rest.
Some common hot flushes triggers include:
- Spicy foods
- Tight or thick clothing
- Certain medicines
- Health conditions e.g. overactive thyroid, diabetes and tuberculosis
When will I get hot flushes and how long will they last?
All women are different; not all women will experience hot flushes, and some may barely feel them (you are the lucky ones). However for the rest of us, hot flushes tend to start in peri-menopause (usually in a woman’s 40’s but is increasingly common in 30’s). Some women experience them for only a short about of time (1 or 2 years) whilst others can may be dealing with them for up to 10 years after the menopause. On average, women get hot flushes or night sweats for 6/7 years. Luckily there is lots we can do about them!
Are hot flushes anything to worry about?
Hot flushes are usually harmless, however, if you have frequent intense hot flushes you may be at risk of dehydration- it is important to stay hydrated in menopause and increase your water intake. Also, it is important to contact your GP if you have combined symptoms of feeling generally unwell, weakness, weight loss, fatigue or diarrhoea.
How do I stop hot flushes?
Hot flushes are a natural symptom for many women during menopause and sadly cannot be switched off, however, the prevention, relief and treatment below may have some answers for you. If you struggle with hot flushes at work, you may be interested in our menopause at work blog which features ways your work can improve the office and your quality of work life around your symptoms.
Prevention for hot flushes
Whilst there is no magic mix, there are many lifestyle changes you can implement to improve your hot flushes such as:
- Wearing light, breathable clothing
- Keeping your bedroom cool
- Reducing stress – try meditation or breathing exercises
- Take a cool shower
- Do not drink hot drinks
- Avoid alcohol, nicotine, spicy food and caffeine
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a healthy well-balanced diet- avoid sugar and processed foods
- Try CBT – recent studies have shown cognitive behavioural therapy to be helpful in reducing many menopause symptoms including hot flushes.
Hot flush relief
Changes in lifestyle can take a while to adopt and many of us will still be suffering whilst our bodies adjust. Here are some hot flush relief products some of our lovely ladies have suggested to us. Keep an eye on our YouTube channel where will be reviewing these and many more products for you!
There are many types of ‘cool pillows,’ some you fill with water, some you leave in the fridge and insert between your pillow and pillow case and others are filled with a gel that stays cool on its own. We have had many women raving about these, saying they are getting a better nights sleep and not waking up wet with sweat, yet others have said they have woken up freezing cold as their sweats have turned colder faster. We’ll have our say soon!
There are a range of cooling mist products for menopausal women online that are upwards of £15! These products are no different that the holiday cooling sprays available in Boots and Superdrug; don’t be fooled. Also, doctors say there is no difference between these sprays and carrying a ‘do it yourself’ spray bottle of water and using it when needed. You can also add essential oils, or calming essences such as rose water when you make your own sprays.
Flush proof clothing
A few select retailers and online shops offer clothes that are flush proof, we are a little sceptical of such clothing and will be testing this with a few of our Hot Flush ladies to see if they are worth it! If you have tried them, please comment at the end of the blog and let us know your experience and results.
We have come across many women who swear by acupuncture for the relief of hot flushes. There is little evidence on the direct coloration, however, acupuncture reduces stress which then in turn will be a factor in reducing hot flushes.
Natural remedies and supplements for hot flushes
At HFC, we try to use natural remedies and supplements before heading to the doctor. Below are a few remedies known to help with hot flushes:
- Black Cohosh
- Red Clover
- Evening Primrose Oil
- Magnesium supplement
- Vitamin E
- Plant estrogens (soy)
Hot flush treatment
Many women will not need treatment and will learn to live with hot flushes (and maybe a little sweating), however, some women find them unbearable and find they interfere with their day to day lives and want to treat them.
According to the NHS the most effective treatment is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT usually eliminates them or calms them down drastically. Your doctor will go through which HRT is suitable for you (if you are able to take HRT) and the benefits and risks.
Bioidentical hormones have also been shown to dramatically reduce the frequency and severity of hot flushes.
Other medicines can also be prescribed if you wish to avoid hormone treatments or if you cannot take hormone treatments due to other medical issues. These medications include certain blood pressure medications and certain antidepressants; your doctor can advise and discuss which is best for you.
What does a hot flush feel like?
We asked women what a hot flush feels like to them and these are a few of their responses:
Samantha, “Starts with my scalp prickling and then burning. The heat goes through my face and flows down through my body. Feels like the heat is inside me not just on my skin”
Stephanie, “Mine tarts inside my head and in seconds spreads down to my toes and I feel as though I’m going to self-combust!”
Cherrelle, “It starts at my chest then to my neck, face and head. To my arms then to my back. It feels like I’m melting from the inside out!! I have mini holidays to the sun 🙄.
Lea, “Mine literally start in my hands- they start to perspire then whoosh! My face feels so hot, I’m dripping in sweat. Afterwards I feel cold…night sweats even worse, my boyfriend says it’s like sleeping next to a furnace and I feel damp, it really breaks up your sleep. I’m surviving on no more than 4 hours sleep a night 😓”
Margaret, “Mine feels like a volcano ready to erupt 🤯Then comes the sweat.”
Anon “Where I come from, we call them ‘hot flashes.’ That word flash reminds me of a lit match, and that’s how mine feels. My entire body is like a lit match. On. Fire.”
Bex, “For me it’s like that feeling when I’m about to throw up and I’m in a crowded place where I’m not going to be able to get to the bathroom in time.”
Anon, “I feel like a pan of water coming to the boil. That point where the water is about to boil over is the feeling I get just before the flush strikes. Then… I boil. Also, just beforehand, I get very thirsty.”
Calvin, “My wife says it’s like a hot wind blowing under her skin.”
Anon, “It’s like somebody opens a 400-degree oven right on your chest”
Blue, “When I have them it’s usually in the night and I wake up like in a mini mild panic attack, like there is something in my chest. If I get scared and I know 1 is coming I start feeling very hot like when you break a fever and I kick all the covers off. I sleep with the AC on so low my family complain it’s like winter in the house. I used to get very angry and stressed about them but now I just accept them and try be patient.”
Anon, “When I have a full body one, I sweat from EVERYWHERE! My legs, my eyelids, my earlobes… it’s like standing in front of the sun.
Anon, “I was having a hot flash, my partner put his hands on my forehead and said ‘holy sh*t you’re actually hot’ No kidding! He thought it was a figure of speech! My whole body just heats until I strip off and get outside!”
Faye, “I know some people have more intense full body hot flushes but for me it’s like ‘jeeze did it get hot in here,’ expecting everybody to agree. Nope, just me! It starts with a tingle in my neck and chest and then my face just feels super warm, as though I were blushing. It feels like I’m sweating at my hairline, though usually no sweat is actually there. Keeping a spritz bottle of rose water on me at all times saved me before I started doing the bioidentical hormones, which thankfully wiped the hot flushes out.
Fiona, “My friend describes them as power surges, that sounds about right for me too”
Arvis, “It’s like Satan himself lit your blood on fire and forced all the boiling water in your body to the surface of your skin, he particularly likes doing this in the middle of the night.”
Linda, “It feels like the moment a sunbed is turned on and that intense heat hits your body”