womenTALK: Blog

Thursday, Aug 04th 2011

8 Ways to Deal With Hot Flashes in the Heat (Or Is-It-Hot-In-Here-or-Is-It-Just-Summer?)

authored by Sheryl Kraft

The last time I wrote about hot flashes was back in February, when it was so frigid that stepping outside was almost painful. But I suspect it was a relief to you if you were coping with those mighty power surges. Throw open a window or step outside and voila—instant cool.

Now that the heat of the summer is engulfing the country, it's not as easy to find immediate relief from those hormonal waves of sweat. And hot weather is a big hot flash trigger. I see it every time I am with a friend who is in the midst of menopause. I easily recognize that dazed and dreaded look that precedes the hot flash; I watch sympathetically as the droplets of sweat start to form on her upper lip; I offer a cold glass of water or even a handful of ice cubes when she starts to squirm uncomfortably or look like she might just pass out.

I feel so helpless, though, sitting by and just watching my friends suffer. And when they ask me what I did when I was going through it, I search my mind for an answer and come up with nothing more than "I carried around a pretty fan," or "I dressed in layers and packed away, for an indefinite period of time, anything that wasn't 100 percent cotton."

Last night I was out for dinner and went to the ladies room, where I encountered a woman hovering helplessly over the sink, frantically splashing cold water on her face, looking absolutely panicky when she saw me walk in. Her face dripping wet, she looked up from the sink  and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like, "thesehotflashesarekillingme!"

Feeling helpless once again, I could only nod my head and manage a sympathetic smile.

Then I got home and hit the computer. My research yielded an array of suggestions. And even though it is late for me, perhaps I can save you some misery when it is your turn, or you can pay it forward for a friend who is swimming in her own sweat.

  • Sip a cold drink. If you feel a hot flash coming on, this could help lower your body's temperature.
  • Pay attention to what you eat and drink. Hot and spicy foods, caffeinated drinks and alcohol can all be triggers.
  • Breathe. Anxiety over the hot flash can actually worsen it. Work on steadying your breathing; practice yoga, meditation or other helpful relaxation techniques.
  • Don't smoke. Tobacco use is linked to an increase in hot flashes.
  • Wear layers of clothing so you can peel them off when a hot flash hits.
  • Consider complementary or alternative treatments. We all know the jury is out on hormonal or bioidentical hormonal treatments. And I'm in no way endorsing using any of these, but many women successfully manage their hot flashes with soy, flaxseed, herbal remedies, acupuncture, vitamins, mild sedatives or medications that are used to treat depression or high blood pressure.
  • Freeze something. An ice-cold washcloth taken from the freezer and placed around your neck can cool you off in a hurry. There are also products on the market that contain tiny crystals inside a swath of fabric that you can drape around your neck. Or do as one friend of mine does—open your freezer and stick your head right in!
  • Lose weight. Losing excess pounds can significantly alleviate—or even eliminate—hot flashes. Researchers found that each 11-pound decrease in weight yielded 33 percent greater odds of improvement in hot flashes. It's not entirely clear why overweight women suffer more; some theorize that excess fat traps heat, leading to more sweating and flushing to cool the body; or that obese women's blood vessels react differently to heat or stress.

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Comments

Jul 25, 2014 10:Jul 10 | Marla said

Night Sweats

My Thyroid just went overactive, so my thermostat is out!! I have fevers all day long, but at night, I take the Tylenol, and then I am soaked within about 1/2 hour, after being chilled. What I want to know, is preparation. What jammies to wear, bedding, or towels? Anything until this is addressed. I have the fever all the time right now.

Jan 14, 2014 08:Jan 8 | Jean said

Interesting comments and

Interesting comments and suggestions - Went thru post-surgery hot flashes and survived -- now they are back due to taking drug for breast cancer --- they are worse then ever - may be more emotional now - more stress. I have created a list of suggestions to try -- the first is giving up coffee (heaven help me and the rest of the world)!

Sep 09, 2013 17:Sep 5 | North said

Hot Flashes AND Sweating

I have found that, along with hot flashes, I now sweat as if I'm running a marathon whenever I exercise (and no, that doesn't mean running marathons). Even gentle exercise triggers sweat that drips off my forehead or trickles down my back. I never used to sweat like this and I find it very disconcerting. I have a lot more laundry to do now.

Towels are now de rigeur in exercise classes, even yin yoga.

Mar 23, 2013 19:Mar 7 | said

Hot Flashes

I have found that the best thing I can do to get relief from a Hot Flash is to use a Chilly Tube! I don't have to take pills, it is just a simply way to stay cool! It stays cool all day without refrigeration so I can wear it anywhere, to work or out on my walks. It just is the most useful thing I have ever seen! Check it out at www.chillythings.ca

Jul 13, 2014 13:Jul 1 | Suzy said

Thank you for the information

Thank you for the information about the chilly tube.

Sep 07, 2012 07:Sep 7 | audrye said

hot flashes

its consoling to hear that others are going thru the same thing.I have asked my mom wether or not she went thru this and she said no.Both of us have gone thru menopause from having hysterectomies at early ages (me 42, my mom 47).

Possibly worse than just the overwellming uncomfortableness (is that even a word??) is the fact that i feel half crazy all the time. My husband seems to have become a fool since im going thru this and my non menopausal friends dont have a clue. Can anyone else relate to this feeling?

I feel like a dried up old leaf, that lately doesnt seem to care if i get blown off the tree and crushed as its exhausting keeping up this nightmare! When will it end??

Jul 19, 2012 15:Jul 3 | Lolly said

Hi Ladies, It is so nice to

Hi Ladies, It is so nice to hear I am not alone in this and all the tips are wonderful. I've just started having night sweats as well - every single night between 3.30 - 4.00 am like clockwork and it wakens me every time. Not sure about the weight loss theory. I'm probably verging on the underweight just due to dealing with a lot of stress in my life right now from various directions (divorce/house selling/working/building an online business/dealing with grown up kids taking sides etc). However, the caffeine one is definitely a trigger. If I drink coffee, within a few moments it starts so I've stopped taking coffee and drink gallons of water. That has definitely helped, along with the herb black cohosh. However, be careful if you take any other form of medication - check with your pharmacist or GP.
We're in this together girls and we'll come out the other side still smiling!!

Jul 15, 2012 23:Jul 11 | BH said

hotflashes

Great to know others are suffering from hotflashes like me. Hope their's go away, too. My plump sister never had hotflashes when she went through the change and didn't have morning sickness with pregnancy. I'm half her weight and had/have both. She told me that the fat makes hormones after our ovaries shut down which prevents hotflashes. I think it depends if the woman's fat know's how to do that. Mine must not know how. Ha! Menopause is a woman's entire life after her periods stop. Do hope it gets better or I will continue spending my time in my cold house. I was taken off my hormones after 10 years which has left me with the hotflashes. Many of the suggestions above do help.

Nov 21, 2011 06:Nov 6 | Amerrah said

hot flashes

I have found that drinking flax seed oil really helps a lot.

Oct 14, 2011 14:Oct 2 | Judi said

Hot Flashes

I lost more than 50 lbs. and hot flashes are the same or worse that pre-weight loss.

Aug 25, 2011 05:Aug 5 | medicare part d said

I was quite addicted to

I was quite addicted to coffee, but after eliminating it from my daily routine I am feeling better and it has helped me a lot in coping with hot flash.

Aug 19, 2011 07:Aug 7 | said

loss of hair

I HAVE A FRIEND WHO TOLD ME ALL WOMEN IN MENOPAUSE LOSE HAIR FROM THEIR HEAD AND BODY. SHE SAYS THAT LOOSING HAIR DOWN THERE IS A NORMAL PART OF LIFE.IS THIS TRUE?

Apr 18, 2012 09:Apr 9 | Satire said

menopause

Yes, hair loss all over the body is a normal aging process. Some ethnic groups seem to lose more than others. Also, medications can cause hair loss, as well as stress, and who isn't stressed with menapause, but a saving grace, you don't have to "dye" down there, the color dosen't fade as fast.

Aug 15, 2011 14:Aug 2 | Kristen said

I wonder why hot and spicy

I wonder why hot and spicy foods are triggers? Any thoughts on that? I suppose it's because your body temperature is affected...I happen to love spicy food.

Aug 16, 2011 14:Aug 2 | Sheryl said

Good question, Kristen. Have

Good question, Kristen. Have to put my investigating hat on.

Aug 15, 2011 10:Aug 10 | sarah henry said

I didn't know that excess

I didn't know that excess weight can be a factor, though it makes sense. Duly noted.

Aug 16, 2011 14:Aug 2 | Sheryl said

Another incentive to keep

Another incentive to keep those pounds off!

Aug 12, 2012 08:Aug 8 | said

hot flashes and weight

According to my GYN, estrogen is stored in fat, so the more fat you have, the loger estrogen will continue sooming around your body causing havoc. If you are thinner, it won't stop hot flashes but you should get over them sooner.

Aug 08, 2011 16:Aug 4 | Merr said

When I saw the title of your

When I saw the title of your post I thought of a friend of mine who loved her hot flashes, she said, because she was always cold before them. When they would come around, she said she felt "normal." Talk about a positive spin!

Aug 16, 2011 14:Aug 2 | Sheryl said

That sure is a great way to

That sure is a great way to look at it!

Aug 06, 2011 00:Aug 12 | Living Large said

I mentioned this to my

I mentioned this to my husband just the other day. It has been SO hot here. He has to work out in it and I told him, "That's what a hot flash feels like." Thank goodness mine seem to have subsided for now.

Aug 06, 2011 00:Aug 12 | Jane Boursaw said

I've been fortunate in that I

I've been fortunate in that I haven't dealt too much with hot flashes, even though I'm in that age range. I'm sort of hot all the time, though. Maybe it's my body's way of regulating things?

Aug 16, 2011 14:Aug 2 | Sheryl said

Maybe your inner thermostat

Maybe your inner thermostat is working better than most, Jane..

Aug 05, 2011 21:Aug 9 | Alisa Bowman said

Good info. A friend of mine

Good info. A friend of mine does a great imitation of her Russian doctor who told her, "You are not doing yourself any favors" about her weight and that menopause was a "horrible time to be a woman."

Aug 16, 2011 14:Aug 2 | Sheryl said

Might that doctor have been a

Might that doctor have been a male doctor, by any chance? Just wondering.

Aug 05, 2011 19:Aug 7 | Alexandra said

Did not know about the weight

Did not know about the weight one. I always find such great suggestions on this blog! Thanks.

Aug 16, 2011 14:Aug 2 | Sheryl said

Thanks, Alexandra. Hope I can

Thanks, Alexandra. Hope I can continue to provide you with other great suggestions!

Aug 05, 2011 19:Aug 7 | NoPotCooking said

These are great tips. I don't

These are great tips. I don't seem to be getting the hot flashes - had night sweats for a while though.

Aug 16, 2011 14:Aug 2 | Sheryl said

Night sweats is how I got

Night sweats is how I got started. But maybe you won't go beyond that, if you're fortunate.

Aug 05, 2011 16:Aug 4 | Roxanne said

Lucky so far, I only get

Lucky so far, I only get little, very isolated flashes. I'm NOT looking forward to real ones in a few years.

Aug 16, 2011 14:Aug 2 | Sheryl said

Well, Roxanne, maybe you'll

Well, Roxanne, maybe you'll be one of the lucky ones who don't get the bad ones...you can only hope, right?

Aug 05, 2011 15:Aug 3 | Jennifer Margulis said

Great advice. I didn't know

Great advice. I didn't know that losing weight can help. Maybe that's one reason why women in India don't suffer hot flashes? because they are so much skinnier...

Aug 09, 2011 16:Aug 4 | Sheryl said

Interesting question,

Interesting question, Jennifer. Or maybe it is something in their diet? Either way it would be nice to know!

Aug 05, 2011 09:Aug 9 | Nancy Monson said

I feel like you wrote this

I feel like you wrote this for me, Sheryl! Thanks for the tips....I've gotta rememmber to keep an ice bag around!

Aug 09, 2011 16:Aug 4 | Sheryl said

Custom- written with you in

Custom- written with you in mind. ;-)

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