I hope you are healthy, safe, content, and enjoying summer, wherever you are! If you are in a hot and humid place like I am—I’m in southern Ontario—you may find your hot flashes have become worse since the temperature has gone up because slight increases in body temperature can trigger hot flashes. It happens to me every summer. When I think my hot flashes are over, along comes the hot weather…
Here are some tips to improve your vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats) in hot weather:
When you walk outside or ride the subway the heat can become stifling and you need to bare as much as is decent! If you work in an office the AC cools you down, sometimes too much, and it feels good to cover up with a light cardigan or a shawl (I even have a pair of stockings/knee highs in my desk to keep my feet from freezing at work). Wear loose-fitting clothes that allow air circulation.
Drink cold water
Use an insulated container to keep your water cold, and carry it with you. Drink often; this prevents dehydration and cools you down.
Cold water wash/spray
Washing hands and wrists in cold water is helpful in hot weather. Often! Applying cold water to the back of the neck and the forehead is also helpful. When I hike or paddle in hot weather, I use a headband soaked in cold water around my neck to keep from overheating. Carry a spray bottle with water and mist your face, chest, and neck when needed (more convenient to use on make-up free days!)
Carry a fan
Battery-operated fans are small and easy to carry, and they may give you the breeze you’re hoping for.
Cool your night
Taking a cold or lukewarm shower before bedtime washes away the sweat accumulated during the day and lowers your body temperature. We sleep better when our bodies are cooler, that’s why exercising just before bedtime isn’t recommend, since exercise increases your core temperature. Air conditioning—or a fan if AC isn’t available—during the night is essential if you suffer from night sweats (hot flashes that happen during sleep). You’ll sleep better in a dark, quiet, and cool room. I recommend sleeping with a sheet only (no duvet or blanket) and wear a loose nightgown that’s made of light and breathable material that doesn’t get soaked in case you sweat. Or wear nothing at all—very sexy and less laundry! If you have long hair, tying it up may keep your neck cooler. Try a silk pillow case. If your pillow gets hot during the night then store an ice pack under it and turn the pillow around often to cool your face. Keep icy water near your bed and sip on it. Keep a facecloth wrapped in an ice pack within reach and apply it to your forehead, back of the neck, and chest during a night sweat.
Whatever you do, don’t get frustrated or allow your mind to start thinking. Once you get anxious or upset about your night struggles you stimulate your brain and it’s harder to get back to sleep. Stay positive and mind your breath (just focus on your breath, no other thoughts) to fall back to sleep.
I know, exercising in hot weather can trigger hot flashes, but for some women—me included—lack of exercise (and too much sugar) makes hot flashes worse.
A cold beer or a glass of icy white wine feels great on a summer evening, but alcohol can worsen hot flashes. Caffeine and spices may also trigger hot flashes. And sugar….
One of the worst hot-flash triggers for me is anxiety. Any little thought that causes even the slightest doubt in my mind—did I lock the front door this morning?—triggers a hot flash. (I was on vacation in a cold climate recently and I didn’t have a single hot flash for 11 days!) Yes, anxiety is hard to avoid in our stressful modern world. But Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been proven in trials to be helpful, and it has no adverse effects. In fact, once you learn it you can apply it in many other situations in life!
I read the book “Managing Hot Flushes and Night Sweats: A cognitive behavioural self-help guide to the menopause” written by two female doctors from the UK, Dr. Myra Hunter and Melanie Smith, and my hot flashes have never bothered me as much ever since. And I know of a few other women who benefited greatly from it as well. If you would like to buy a copy from me, email me. If you are not the type that can stick with a self-help program and prefer a coach or a group, there are many CBT specialists in the city. Not cheap, but your work insurance may cover it.
Hormone therapy (HT) is the most effective treatment for hot flashes, but if you can’t or don’t want to use HT there are a few non-hormonal treatments available too. The problem with the non-hormonal treatments is that they haven’t been studied to a great extent and some work better than others.
I hope these tips to improve hot flashes in hot weather help you!
Teresa Isabel Dias is a pharmacist and Certified Menopause Practitioner (NCMP) who provides education and support on symptom management for women at work and at home so they’ll feel like themselves again and enjoy a vibrant and productive life.
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