Around eight out of 10 women experience hot flushes at some stage during the menopause. They’re most common in the year after your final period, when you may start to notice a sudden sensation of heat radiating across your upper body.
Your skin can become red and blotchy, your heart rate may increase, and you may start sweating. Some women feel dizzy and anxious too.
It’s thought hormonal fluctuations affect the functioning of the hypothalamus, which controls temperature, so it mistakenly tells your body it is too hot and blood vessels under the skin suddenly widen, causing the release of heat.
But there is help at hand with these solutions.
Track your triggers
Anything that raises the body temperature can bring on a hot flush. Common triggers are being in an overly warm room or consuming hot food or drink.
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Caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods and stress are other common culprits. Keep a note of when and where your hot flushes occur, what you ate or drank, and the emotions you felt and it can help you to avoid these.
Carrying a few essential items when you’re out and about can help you feel more confident. A small water spray bottle can be used to spritz either the insides of your wrists or your face.
Wet wipes can be handy to have with you, along with tissues to blot away excess perspiration. A pocket fan is also great for a quick cool-down, and always carry a small bottle of water.
Adapt your wardrobe
In warmer months, opt for cotton or linen fabrics, which allow your skin to breathe, rather than synthetic (such as polyester, acrylic, nylon), which tend to exacerbate sweating.
Ensure your clothes are not too tight – think wide-leg trousers and floaty dresses. In the cooler months, choose two or more thin layers, so you can discreetly remove items.
Say no to night sweats
When you have a night sweat your body releases the stress hormone adrenaline, which has a stimulating effect on the mind, making it harder to switch off and go back to sleep.
Keep your bedroom as cool as possible – in summer have the windows open or use a fan and in winter keep the radiators down.
Use cotton bedding and nightwear so your skin can breathe, and keep a cool gel pack – the type you chill in the freezer – under your pillow. Whenever you need to cool down you can then simply turn your pillow over.
Relief on tap
Holding your inner wrists under a running cold water tap for a minute or two will quickly cool you down if you need to combat a hot flush while out.
Eat to beat the heat
Evidence suggests that women who eat a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains have fewer hot flushes than those who eat less healthily.
This may be down to the phytoestrogens (plant oestrogens) they contain which have a hormone-balancing effect. Soya products like tofu, soya milk and soya-based yoghurts, cheeses and desserts are rich in phytoestrogens.
Regular relaxation has been shown to reduce flushing by as much as 60%. When you feel a flush coming on, take deep, calming breaths rather than tensing up. There’s a good chance it will help it to pass more quickly.
Visualising being in a cool place has been shown to add to the effect. For example, imagine being outside on a freezing cold day, lowering yourself into an icy-cold plunge pool or standing beneath a waterfall.
Assess your alcohol intake
Alcohol can trigger hot flushes because it boosts blood flow, which widens your blood vessels, leaving you more prone to overheating.
Enjoying a drink with a meal, or a glass of wine after a long day, can be one of life’s little pleasures, so don’t feel you have to abstain. Instead keep your drinking to no more than 14 units a week and see if your symptoms improve.
Quit the curries
Spicy dishes, like curry and chilli con carne, can worsen hot flushes. This is because, like alcohol, naturally occurring chemicals in spices widen blood vessels and boost blood flow, exacerbating any feeling of heat.
If you can’t bear to give up curries, choose milder ones like korma, pasanda or dopiaza, eat them with raita (a cooling cucumber and mint yoghurt dip) and drink plenty of water.
Cut down on coffee
Both the temperature of a cup of coffee or tea and the stimulant effects of the caffeine they contain can trigger flushes. Curb your intake by replacing a few cups with decaffeinated tea or coffee, or a herbal tea such as redbush or chamomile. Cold water is another obvious choice to help you avoid overheating.