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
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'.