Hot flushes in the office can be distracting at best, debilitating at worst and there's not a lot you can do to stop them. But you can certainly lessen the impact, says Sarah Vine. From keeping your meals light to wearing specially-engineered 'anti-flush' fabrics, here's what she knows works for this common menopausal symptom
They say that only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. For women, there is one more to add to that list: the menopause. We all know we are going to get it – but when it eventually comes, it inevitably catches us unawares.
Part of the problem is that many of the symptoms – fatigue, headaches, irritability, low mood, weight gain, muscle and joint aches and pains, insomnia, dizziness – are just what busy women, juggling work and family, experience anyway at the end of long and gruelling days. That’s why so many menopausal women actually end up being treated for depression; even their GPs sometimes don’t spot it.
Recently new fabrics have also been developed that use the latest technology to address the extreme temperature changes menopausal women experience
One symptom, however, that is unique to the menopause is the hot flush. They are like nothing you’ve ever felt before, a rush of intense heat that rises from deep within and can cause real discomfort, not to mention embarrassment. It’s like a wave of high fever: the body explodes into moisture, the heat makes you feel breathless and claustrophobic.
Dressing appropriately is key. Forget chunky jumpers and heavy overcoats. Layering is your friend, as it allows you to strip off discreetly when necessary. Recently new fabrics have also been developed that use the latest technology to address the extreme temperature changes menopausal women experience. For example, Become clothing specialises in undergarments - vests, slips, T-shirts, nightwear, briefs, leggings - specifically engineered to minimise and help manage the discomfort of hot flushes. Beautifully constructed, cleverly designed yet simple in style, this range is ideal to wear both summer and winter and reasonably priced from £12 to £45.
I especially love the Anti-Flush Vest Tops, £32 which come in five subtle colours. I have taken to wearing them under almost everything, not just because they are a fantastic shape and cover a multitude of sins (in particular I like the way they smooth over that pesky back fat that is another delight of the menopause) but also because they really do keep my body temperature stable in a noticeable way.
The fabric is made with a flat thread and knitted on a cross section to produce a bigger surface area to transfer warmth away from the body. It’s coated using patent-pending Anti-Flush Technology, which draws heat from the skin’s surface when you overheat and then releases warmth back onto the body when you feel the chill afterwards. And they donate 10 per cent of the purchase price to the women’s gynae cancer Charity The Eve Appeal for its #GetLippy campaign.
Also, there are no uncomfortable seams - another unwelcome side-effect of the menopause is dry and sensitive skin – and again these garments are wonderful in that they cause absolutely no irritation whatsoever. In fact, I wish they would expand the range to bras – one of the banes of my menopausal life are itchy bras.
Hot flushes can happen anywhere, anytime. Many women are woken by them during the night, throwing off their duvets and sleeping with the windows open even in winter. But they can also catch you unawares throughout the day, while shopping for groceries or sitting in meetings at work. And they can last for years, too.
Unless you are taking HRT - which is very effective at relieving the worst of the symptoms of the menopause - there is not an awful lot you can do to stop them. But you can lessen their impact.
At work, keep a small fan on your desk – and if necessary have a quiet word with your manager to see if it’s possible to turn off the heating in your vicinity. Most offices are just too hot for menopausal women, who even when they are not suffering from hot flushes just generally feel the heat more.
Hot drinks - and especially caffeine - tend to exacerbate them, as does alcohol consumption. Spicy foods are also to be avoided - and heavy, carb dishes won’t help either. Keeping meals light, especially in the evenings, will help minimise discomfort.
When it comes to colleagues, especially younger ones, they often have no concept of what you are going through. Male colleagues - and men in general - can also feel rather embarrassed about the whole thing. Remember: you have nothing to be ashamed of, and how you deal with it is up to you. Some women like to keep their menopause very private; others are open about it; others crack jokes to make themselves and others more at ease. Do whatever feels right for you.
Written in partnership with Become. Find out more and shop the range at webecome.co.uk