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Don't sweat summer hot flashes

Bryn Mawr Hospital July 21, 2014 General Wellness

Hot flashes are unpleasant during any time of year but during the summer, temperatures and humidity can make them even more uncomfortable.

Below, Wingkan Sbar, MD, OB/GYN at Bryn Mawr Hospital, offers tips for women to cope with hot flashes during summer heat.

Control your internal temperature

It would seem as though this one goes without saying, but even the slightest change in your internal body temperature can trigger a hot flash.

Keep your air conditioning and ceiling or floor fans on to help lower temperature, and keep blinds and curtains closed to block out natural sunlight during the hottest time of the day, between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm. If you’ll be outside, bring a small fan, cold water bottle or spray bottle with you to help keep you cool. Some women also find relief by placing a cool, wet towel or scarf on the back of their necks.

Drinking water frequently throughout the day can also help your body cool down, so be sure to choose water over sodas, sports drinks and alcohol to ward off hot flashes. At night, keep a cold water bottle by your bed to reach for during night sweats.

Calm down

When you notice a hot flash coming on, don’t panic. This can make hot flashes feel worse. Instead, take slow, deep breaths and consciously try to relax. At the beginning or end of each day, practice stress-relief tactics like yoga or meditation, which can reduce the likelihood of hot flashes.

Don’t neglect exercise

Exercise is always good for your health, and that means it’s good for easing menopause symptoms, too. But when you’re dealing with hot flashes and excessive summer heat, the last thing you want to do is spend time working up a sweat. Look for alternatives to outdoor exercise like a monthly pass to a fitness center or workout DVDs that can be done inside. If you’re set on exercising outdoors, try doing it later at night when temperatures have dropped.

Dress in layers

Wearing layers of loose clothing that can be buttoned or zipped makes it easier for you to cool off in the event of a hot flash. Avoid pullover sweaters or shirts and opt for cardigans and blouses instead.

Build a healthy sleep environment

Night sweats aren’t just annoying, they can also keep you awake at night. Help prevent the onset of night sweats by keeping your bedroom especially cool. In addition to a ceiling or floor fan in the room, look for small personal fans that can be placed on your nightstand or right next to your bed to ensure you’re cool all night. Keeping a water bottle next to your bed can also be beneficial to help cool you down if you do wake up with night sweats.

Another way to prevent night sweats? Skip nighttime showers. Hot showers and baths, even hours before bedtime, can increase the likelihood of night sweats.

Skip spicy foods

Spicy foods, caffeinated beverages and alcohol have all been known to make hot flashes more frequent or worse. Avoid trigger foods like these at summer parties.

If your hot flashes still feel unbearable and don’t seem to be improving with lifestyle changes and adjustments, talk to your doctor. They may be able to recommend hormonal therapies or treatments that can ease your symptoms.