Symptoms of menopause – how to help hot flushes

Claims Clinical Lead Nurse at Bupa UK
22 June 2017

Going through the menopause is a natural biological change for women. Sometimes called the change of life, most women experience menopause between the ages of 40 and 60, and it usually lasts a few years. Once the menopause starts, your ovaries stop producing so much of the hormone oestrogen. This drop in oestrogen levels not only stops your periods but can also cause some unpleasant side effects.

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As many as eight in 10 women experience symptoms of the menopause. One of the most common of these is hot flushes. So if you’re feeling hot and bothered during this phase of life – you’re not alone. Here I’ll explain just what happens to your body when you have a hot flush. What’s more, I’ll share my top tips on how you can beat the heat and help get hot flushes under control.

What do hot flushes feel like?

If you’re having a hot flush, you may experience:

  • a sudden feeling of heat spreading through your body
  • a red flush spreading across your chest, neck, face and head
  • sweating
  • heart palpitations
  • feelings of anxiety

How long do hot flushes last?

A hot flush can occur at any time of the day, and usually lasts several minutes. Hot flushes that happen at night time are known as night sweats. You may carry on getting them for years after your periods stop.

How can you deal with hot flushes?

There are some things you can do to help manage hot flushes yourself. Try these tips to stay cool, calm and collected.

Avoid triggers. Although hot flushes can be unpredictable, you might find they’re worse after drinking alcohol or caffeine, after eating spicy food or when you’re stressed. Try keeping a diary for a few weeks to see whether you notice a link.

Dress lightly. Wearing lighter clothing made of natural, breathable fabrics like cotton, silk or soft wool might help you to keep cool. Go for looser styles rather than tight ones. During the colder months, wear a few light layers that you can shrug off when you feel a hot flush coming on.

Layer your bed linen. The same principle applies at bedtime. Try to keep your room cool. Rather than using a heavy duvet, try layering a few light blankets and sheets made from natural fabrics. Sheets made with 100% cotton are usually cool and comfortable.

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.

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.

Take a lukewarm shower. When you take a shower, aim for a temperature that’s a happy medium rather than hot.

Lead a healthy lifestyle. Following a healthy lifestyle can help not just with hot flushes, but with many other symptoms of menopause. So it’s important to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, drink sensibly and not to smoke. This will also help to reduce your risk of developing things like heart disease and osteoporosis, as the risk of these is higher after menopause.

Is there a treatment for hot flushes?

How severe and how frequent your hot flushes are will be different for every woman. If you’re finding it difficult to manage your hot flushes with the tips above, there are other interventions you may be able to try.

Supplements and complementary therapies

Some women try supplements and complementary or alternative remedies to ease their menopause symptoms. It’s important to note that supplements come in 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 doesn’t prove they work. They can interact with other medications, and some may have side-effects. Speak to your GP before trying a supplement or remedy.

Hormone replacement therapy

Your GP can also talk to you about HRT (hormone replacement therapy, which replaces oestrogen). Most women are able to take it after discussing all the treatment options and the risks and benefits of HRT with a doctor.

Even healthy people become unwell sometimes. Health insurance can help you get prompt access to the treatment and support you need to help you get back on the road to recovery. Learn more with our useful guide to understanding health insurance.

Helen Bedwell
Claims Clinical Lead Nurse at Bupa UK

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