Although hot flushes are a normal part of perimenopause and the menopause, there are ways you can help reduce the occurrence of hot flashes and the discomfort they cause.
Hot flushes and sweats are common during the menopause. Read more below about how to cope with them while at work.
What are hot flushes?
Hot flashes, also known as hot flushes, are an uncomfortable symptom which affects approximately three-quarters of all women during perimenopause and the menopause.
A hot flash is a feeling of intense heat that isn't caused by external sources. Hot flashes can appear suddenly, or you may feel them coming on gradually. During a hot flash, you may experience:
- A reddening of the face
- Unexpected and excessive sweating
- A feeling of intense heat
- A tingling sensation in the fingers
- Increased heart rate
How long do hot flushes last?
Once you've reached the menopause, your hot flashes can continue for up to five years. Some women even continue to have hot flushes for 10 years (or longer!) But don't be concerned by these statistics. Many women find that hot flashes only last for a few months before they dwindle out.
When a hot flash begins, it can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. Similarly, hot flashes can occur several times a day or a few times a week. If you're lucky, your hot flashes might only crop up every month or so (if that's the case, we're jealous!) The common theme here is that every woman experiences hot flashes differently. There's no "one-size-fits-all" approach to the menopause, or to the hot flashes that come with it.
What to do when you get a hot flush at work
You: "Does anyone mind if I put the air conditioning on?"
Your colleagues: "Are you crazy?! It’s snowing outside!!!"
No matter what form your hot flashes take, if you suffer from them, they’ll follow you to work as well. Managing hot flashes in the workplace can be quite a challenge. The best way to deal with them at work is to plan in advance for your comfort and to take preventative steps to reduce the severity of your hot flashes.
Here are some tricks to keep your hot flashes at bay during work:
1) Think about what you’re wearing
Avoid wool, silk, and most synthetic fabrics. These materials trap heat and can increase your body temperature. Clothes made of cotton, linen, or bamboo “breathe” better, release heat, and help keep you cooler.
You should also try and wear layers so that you can easily cool yourself during or after a hot flash. You will also have the layers to put back on if you experience a cold chill that can happen after a hot flash.
2) Get a fan
Why not get yourself a handheld or desk fan so that you can create your own cool air without having to fight your work colleagues for the AC remote. There are even some fans that plug right into your phone!
3) Invest in a cooling spray
Cooling sprays and spritz provide instant cooling relief - and they're easy to carry in your bag or purse. Thermal water spritzes, or sprays with essential oils can be perfect for cooling yourself down quickly. Spritzing your face is more efficient than splashing yourself with water, because a spritz will evaporate quickly and won't melt off your makeup.
4) Avoid hot and spicy food
Spicy foods can cause your body temperature to rise and make your hot flashes worse. Avoid foods that have seasonings like hot pepper, cayenne, or chilli powder. You should also avoid foods that are hot in temperature, as they can make you feel even hotter during a hot flash. Choose room-temperature meals or chilled options and avoid piping hot foods like hot soup or hot stew.
5) Be on time
Give yourself adequate time to get to work and to meetings. The stress of rushing around can raise your body temperature and trigger a hot flash. Turning up to meetings early also means you can get the best seat, perhaps one close to a window or under the air vent, and this will make you more comfortable if another hot flash takes over.
6) Have a glass of water on your desk
Make sure that you always have a glass, or bottle of cold water close to hand. Avoid drinking too many hot drinks at work, but if you have to, then enjoy chamomile tea instead of coffee as this helps to balance hormones.
7) Keep a refrigerated or frozen washcloth on-hand
An ice-cold washcloth taken from the freezer or fridge and placed around your neck can cool you off in a hurry. Store it in a Tupperware container and label it with your name so that you can pop through and get it whenever you need some fast relief.
You could also consider bringing some popsicles or frozen fruit and storing them in the office freezer. That way, when a hot flash hits, you can pop out for a quick, chilly snack.
If your hair is long enough to pull back, bring hairbands or clips. This will keep your hair off your neck, where perspiration tends to collect. Consider keeping a travel hair dryer at work if your hair gets really wet. You can always pop to the restroom and give yourself a quick burst of relief (even better - use the "cool" setting on the dryer).
9) Medical advice
Talk to your doctor if hot flashes are disrupting your day. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a medication or recommend other treatment options that can help.