What are hot flushes?
A hot flush is a sudden sensation of intense heat in the upper part or all of the body and may mark the beginning of the menopause in many women. Hot flushes occur sporadically and will gradually decline in frequency and intensity.
They begin without the slightest warning and can occur at any time of the day. The face and neck may become flushed, with red blotches appearing on the chest, back and arms. This is often followed by profuse sweating and then cold shivering as body temperature readjusts.
Some women develop insomnia, while others have found that caffeine, alcohol, hot drinks, spicy foods, and stressful or frightening events can sometimes trigger a hot flush. Avoiding these triggers will not necessarily prevent all episodes. A hot flush can last a few moments or 30 minutes or longer.
Why do they occur?
Hot flushes appear to be a direct result of decreasing oestrogen levels. In response to falling oestrogen levels, your glands release higher amounts of other hormones that affect the brain's thermostat, causing body temperatures to fluctuate.
What can I do about them?
Hot flushes can be very annoying and uncomfortable, but they can be managed. The mainstay of treatment for hot flushes has been HRT and flushes that are due to hormone fluctuations should improve within about two weeks of starting HRT. However, HRT may not be not suitable for all women – you should discuss your suitability for HRT with your GP.
- Exercise, diet and relaxation and avoiding caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods can help to alleviate hot flushes.
- Try dressing in layers that can be removed at the first sign of a flush.
- Drink a glass of cold water or juice at the onset of a flush.
- Keep a flask of ice water or an ice pack by your bed.
- Use cotton sheets, lingerie and clothing to let your skin 'breathe'.
Reviewed: December 1, 2006