This is not about Hormone Replacement Therapy or Herbal Remedies. It’s not about ingesting anything – though drinking more water may help.
Based on twenty years of my own experience, this is about how to cope physically. (No, this doesn’t mean that all women go through twenty years of hot flashes – just that I did. )
Let’s start with what a “hot flash” is. Hot flashes are one of several symptoms that women may experience as they enter menopause. For no apparent reason, you suddenly feel warm. It might be only your face, or your upper chest and neck, or it might be your entire body, though this seems to be more rare.
This feeling of warmth may last only a few seconds, sort of like blushing when you were younger. Or it may increase to the point where you feel hot and actually break out in a sweat. Again, the sweat may be limited to your face, or it might involve your entire body. It can last ten minutes or longer, especially in hot weather, or if you have recently had spicy food or coffee.
So, how can you cope physically? The very first thing is to decide that you will not be embarrassed. Depending on how severe your hot flashes are and what method(s) you use to cope, other people may not even notice. If they do, it’s like noticing gray hair or wrinkles – perfectly normal signs of aging.
There are several coping methods that I found useful, depending on the situation.
* Dress in layers. As you begin to warm up, remove the outer layers. A silk scarf works for me. I can wear it several different ways as an accessory, and it fits into my purse easily or ties around the purse strap, when I take it during a hot flash.
* Carry handkerchiefs. Dab at the perspiration, rather than rubbing, to avoid irritating your skin. Again, you have several choices. I prefer large men’s 100% cotton handkerchiefs. You might prefer linen, or linen with lace edging. Or even silk. Don’t use blends with nylon or polyester, as these are not as absorbent – though some of the microfibres are getting better. Other options, especially in the summer, include colorful bandanas or terrycloth for when you really need the extra absorbency.
* Carry a folding fan. Many Asian import stores sell inexpensive, colorful “pocket” fans that fold up inside their own metal or wooden handle for protection. Or you can use the pretty lace fans. Or a sandalwood fan that doubles as an aromatherapy treatment!
* Carry a small battery powered electric fan. (Keep plug-in types at home and on your desk. ) Find one that fits easily in your purse and has a safety cage or safety blades. Some plastic fans stop at a touch. My current favorite has neoprene blades that stop easily and that recover well from being squished at the bottom of my purse. Find one that you can hold in your hand and that can also stand on a flat surface or clip on to something. Forget the “beach” fans with water bottles – unless you don’t sweat. Most of us are trying to get rid of moisture, not add it.
* Carry a change of clothing. When I began yoga a few years ago, I found that even very slow and gentle yoga in an air-conditioned environment caused me to sweat, even if no one else in class did. My solution was to bring a change of clothes. I simply changed to a dry bra and t-shirt about two-thirds of the way through class.
* Be prepared for night sweats. These are also hot flashes, but since most of us sleep under covers, they seem worse because the heat is trapped. Specifically, be prepared with fresh pillowcases, nightgowns or pajamas, and in extreme cases, with fresh sheets and mattress pad. I also sleep with a terrycloth face cloth beside my pillow. Do I use all of these every night? Happily, no. Again, I recommend breathable, absorbent fibers – cotton, silk, linen, rayon.
Are hot flashes still annoying? Yes. Are there safe methods for coping with them physically? Absolutely. Experiment and select what works for you.
Copyright © 2007 by Tandy M. Ringoringo