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Hot Flashes Heating up your Summer?

Posted by Bethanie Newby

The last week or so felt like Spring, but Summer is back and I'm already glowing. Not only that, but the hot flashes that joined me on my cancer journey have never really left, and love to pop up randomly.

How do you deal with hot flashes? You know, that sudden, intense heat that explodes outward, mainly on your chest, neck, and face, plenty of perspiration, and maybe some blotchy skin and anxiety tossed in. Well, my favorite remedy is to picture myself standing under an icy waterfall in a cool, green glade. Sometimes it even works.

Terry M. Gibbs, DO, NMCP, offered advice for “Breast Cancer Survivors and Hot Flash Treatments” in the North American Menopause Society website. Here are her suggestions: 

1. Avoid hot flash triggers. Some triggers can be stress, alcohol, caffeine, diet pills, spicy food, hot showers, hot weather, smoking, and overheated bedrooms.

2. Keep your core body temperature cool. The warmer air of summer means we reach sweating temperature much sooner, and a potential hot flash. Try this:

  • Dress in layers with natural fibers, or wicking fabric that absorbs moisture from the skin. 

  • Sleep on cotton sheets and with one foot out from under the covers. (I did this before cancer!)

  • Keep a bottle of cool water at hand. 

  • Keep a small fan at your desk and on your bedside table or overhead. 

  • Keep a hand fan with you during the day. 

  • Take a cool shower before bed. 

  • Keep a frozen cold pack under your pillow, and turn the pillow often. Try “cool” sheets. (I did try them without success, but it may benefit others.)

  • Invest in air conditioning or a ceiling fan. 3.

3. Maintain a healthy body weight.

4. Refrain from smoking.

5. Exercise regularly. Daily exercise is best, and great news here, moderate exercise reduces triggers better than vigorous exercise.

6. Practice relaxation techniques. Anxiety can increase hot flashes. Try yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises such as paced respiration (slow, deep, abdominal breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth).

7. Try nonhormonal medications. If the options above aren’t relieving your hot flashes, you may consider these medications with your healthcare provider:

  • Blood pressure–lowering medication. Prescription medications such as clonidine (0.05 mg twice daily or 0.1 mg patch once weekly).

  • Antidepressants. The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) Brisdelle (paroxetine; 7.5 mg/d), fluoxetine (20 mg/d), or venlafaxine (37.5-75 mg/d) are options. 

  • Antiseizure drugs. Gabapentin (300 mg, 3 times daily) is another nonhormonal option for treating hot flashes. 

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, a frequent contributor to Prevention Magazine, also has some natural remedies you might try, including aromatherapy. She recommends Clary sage and Roman  chamomile essential oils to help balance mood swings, and peppermint to cool down hot flashes. Make your own cooling mist to use during the day and at night for night sweats. In a  4-oz dark-glass spray bottle mix: 3 oz. distilled water; 1 oz witch hazel extract; 8 drops each of peppermint, clary sage, and Roman chamomile essential oils. Spritz as needed.

So hotties, try some of these suggestions to keep your cool, and let us know how they work. And if you have already conquered that beast, now is the perfect time to share!

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