Hot flushes are a common symptom of the menopause. Try these tips to stay cool, calm and collected.
The menopause, which some people call the change of life, is a natural stage for women. In the UK, the average age for the menopause is 51.
It happens because your ovaries produce less oestrogen, which makes your periods stop. The drop in oestrogen can also lead to various menopause symptoms, and eight in 10 women experience at least some of them.
One common and potentially annoying symptom is hot flushes. You get a sudden feeling of heat spreading through your body. You might get sweaty, and a red flush spreads across your neck and face.
Hot flushes may carry on happening for years after your periods stop. You may be able to manage them yourself but if not, don’t despair because your doctor can help.
To start with, try some of these strategies to beat the heat.
1. Avoid triggers
Hot flushes can be unpredictable. But you may find they are worse after drinking alcohol or caffeine, or eating spicy food. Keep a diary for a few weeks and see whether you notice a link. If you do, you could try avoiding your triggers when you need to keep your cool.
2. Dress lightly
Try wearing lighter clothing made of natural, breathable fabrics like cotton, silk or soft wool. Go for looser styles rather than tight ones. In cold weather, wear a few light layers that you can shrug off when you feel a hot flush coming on.
3. Layer your bed linen
The same principle applies at bedtime. Rather than using a heavy duvet, try layering a few lighter blankets made of natural fabrics. Sheets made of 100% cotton are cool and comfortable.
4. Use a fan
Keep a fan in your bedroom and on your desk for times when you need to cool down. You can also carry a battery-powered mini-fan in your bag, or go for vintage glamour with a traditional hand-held fan.
5. Carry a cooling spray
Keep a small spray bottle in your bag, on your desk or near at hand when you’re at home. Fill it with water and give yourself a little spritz to cool down a hot flush.
6. Try a lukewarm shower
Go for the middle ground when you take a shower – not too hot but not too cold, either.
What else can I do?
Following a healthy lifestyle in general can help with hot flushes and many other menopause symptoms. It can also help reduce your risk of more serious effects that come with the menopause, such as an increased risk of heart disease or osteoporosis (brittle bones). Eating a healthy diet, drinking sensibly and stopping smoking are all important. Go for low-impact exercise like swimming, cycling, yoga or Pilates.
What about supplements and complementary therapies?
Some women try supplements and complementary or alternative remedies for menopause symptoms. There are many different preparations and their quality, purity and safety varies. There is some evidence that a few of them might have a benefit, but for others the science is still unclear or does not prove they work. Get advice from your GP before trying a supplement or remedy. They can interact with other medications, and some may have side-effects. You also want to make sure your preparation comes from a safe source.
What medical treatment is there?
Your GP can also talk to you about HRT (hormone replacement therapy, which replaces oestrogen). It’s been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as being effective, and for most women, it can be offered after consultation with a doctor who discusses all the options with you, including the risks and benefits. You can read more about HRT on our topic page, which explains the different types of HRT, how to take it, side-effects and special care, as well as some FAQs.