Chances are, if you’re going through menopause you’re already very familiar with the hot flush. In fact, four out of every five women going through menopause will experience this unwelcome menopause symptom.1
A mild hot flush can be a simple warming sensation that only lasts a few seconds and at worst is a minor inconvenience. But at the other end of the spectrum with a severe hot flush, you can feel intense heat over your upper body and face, accompanied by profuse sweating, nausea, a racing or pounding heartbeat, and heavy breathing.
Everyone experiences hot flushes differently. For instance, sometimes women experience a chill instead of a heat sensation. Frequency can vary a great deal too, with some women having one hot flush a day while others have more than 20. When a hot flush happens at night – known as a night sweat – it can often wake you, leaving you tired and fatigued. It’s important to remember that hot flushes aren’t something that you just have to ‘put up with’! Keep reading to learn about hot flush triggers and learn how you can tame them.
The exact cause of hot flushes isn’t known yet, but it’s believed that they occur because of changes to the hypothalamus – the part of our brain that controls temperature – during menopause. It’s thought the hormone estrogen is involved.
Normally the hypothalamus tells the body to cool down by sweating when it reaches a certain temperature, and on the flip side, warm up by shivering when the temperature drops past a certain point – but during menopause these trigger thresholds grow closer together.
The flush itself is caused by vasodilation, which means the blood vessels let more blood flow to the skin so it can cool down, causing the redness typical of a hot flush.
In addition to the changes going on inside your body that contribute to hot flushes, there can also be external triggers. The good news is that by identifying your personal triggers you can take simple steps to reduce the number and severity of hot flushes you experience.
Individual sweating patterns tend to be consistent, so it can be helpful to understand and avoid your personal triggers. Spicy food and hot food or drinks, using a hair dryer, hot baths, cigarettes, caffeine and alcohol are common culprits.
Following a healthy lifestyle can also help reduce the impact of hot flushes and other menopause symptoms, as well as having many other health benefits. Here are some tips that might help you extinguish the fire.
To discuss with your doctor:
You might find that some of the simple tips and strategies you can try on your own can make a big difference, but remember, if hot flushes continue to affect your daily life, it's time to talk to your doctor and take back control.
Your doctor can consider the different symptoms you are experiencing, your age, and your overall health – and then talk with you about a menopause treatment to suit your individual needs.
©Pfizer 2017. Pfizer Australia Pty Limited. Pfizer Medical Information: 1800 675 229. Level 15-18, 151 Clarence St, Sydney, NSW, 2000. PP-DUA-AUS-0088, 07/2017
The Royal Women's Hospital. The women's health book. (2014) 1st ed. Sydney: Random House Australia, pp.524–534.