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The Dreaded Hot Flushes

on May 9, 2015

Alongside severe mood swings in women going through the menopause, the other main complaint they give are the dreaded hot flushes. Speak to any woman going through this and they will describe sitting in hell and not being able to do anything about it.

I have spent time thinking about how to describe them, and the best I can come up with is this – imagine yourself sat fully clothed in a sauna. No matter how hot you become, you cannot get up and walk out the sauna though. A hot flush feels like you are burning up from the inside out and the thing that makes them worse is the panic you feel when they begin. You know exactly how you are going to feel and that this feeling is only going to get worse. There is no way to predict them and there appears to be nothing you can do to prevent them (other than HRT). They don’t care if you are awake, asleep, in a meeting, buying a ticket for a train or even if you are in the shower. Having a hot flush in a shower is quite good though, as you can cool down and wash down afterwards. Most of mine seem to come very shortly after I’ve had a shower, which makes showering a complete waste of time and effort.

After the personality changes, these were the thing I was dreading most about my surgically induced menopause.

Initially I wasn’t sure I have having them, they did start quite gradually as the natural hormones in my body disappeared completely. Once they fully started, then there was no doubt what they were. I had managed not to take HRT so was going to try and manage this too. I found out that layers of clothing worked for me. When the flushes start you know they are going to build up, so the ability to take off layers of clothing to temporarily cool me down worked both physically and psychologically. This has meant spending most of the past year wearing cardigans, even in hot weather. If I can’t get a layer of clothing off quickly enough then I seem to lose my ability to control them.

The next thing is to time them. My hot flushes last on average 2-3 minutes with the occasional 5 minutes. This isn’t a very long time in the grand scheme of things, but when you feel like you are burning up from the inside out, this can feel like it’s forever. Once I had worked out how long they were, then I knew there was an end. Again this worked on the psychological level for me. Hot flush, cardigan off, wait it out and then enjoy the feeling as you cool down again.

The last thing that helped me was working with men. I am a manager in an all male work environment. They have pointed out every single hot flush, the cardigans, the grabbing the nearest item to fan myself with. They have offered to set up an Apprenticeship Scheme for a “Fan Boy” for me. I have not once been allowed to let this get to me, they have not once let me hide away and secretly have a hot flush, my hot flushes have been very public and because of this and how it’s been working with all men, I really don’t care about them. I’m post menopausal and proud! I have no idea who I was trying to hide the fact I was having a hot flush from. To the guys here they are perfectly normal, they happen, get on with it, get over it.

The hot flushes have become manageable for me now I know how to handle them. At night they are more annoying, but I’ve solved that problem with a fan. Half asleep when they start, off comes the duvet and I cool down in the fan. Usually within 15-20 mins I’m cold and the duvet goes back on and I’m still half a sleep. As the year has gone by my hot flushes are getting fewer and easier to deal with. The biggest contribution to me managing these are the guys I work with. They made me face them publicly and they made me see the humour in having them. At one point they started a sweep-stake to see which of them was causing them.

Hot flushes are a temporary part of the menopause and I know I got lucky with my menopause and that my hot flushes are manageable and my mood swings are non-existent, so I have been able to see the funny side of this.

If you do want to know what they are like, then do sit in a sauna room with jeans, socks, shoes and multiple layers of clothing on and see what it feels like to get so hot and sweaty. Repeat that a few times and then you’ll know what it feels like to have to get through a whole day of that without constant showers to clean up.

My last word of warning. If you are going to take the whole humour approach with a woman you know going through this as part of her menopausal symptoms, do check she hasn’t got the mood swings BEFORE you make fun of her. Otherwise we are back to my favourite scissors in the forehead!


One response to “The Dreaded Hot Flushes

  1. After taking Effexor (venlafaxine) for hot flashes and then suffering weird, intolerable neurological side effects I got on the hormone train. I’ve been happy with the results of the daily Lo Lo Estrin and the occasion low-dose Ambien to help me sleep. I HATED hot flushes. Mine came with ANY emotion presentation: happy, sad, angry … just any change. Hot spice food set me off. The worse was getting them at night getting all sticky wet and then having the evaporation make me chilly and shiver.

    I hear ya girl! You’re preaching to the choir! 🙂

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