During hot flashes or heat surges, it feels as if your body's thermo-unit suddenly tilts. Red blotches crawl from your neck and throat to your cheeks and you break out into a sweat. Hot flashes occur as a nasty side effect of hormone therapy, but also of chemo and other cancer treatments. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a miracle treatment against them. Yet we do have a few useful tips to help you cope with them.
Hot flashes after hormone or chemotherapy: what causes them?
Why do you actually get hot flashes from hormone therapy or chemo? And what exactly happens with your body when you are having one? Hormone therapy and chemotherapy disturb the production of oestrogen temporarily. And the drop of oestrogen in your blood affects the heat centre in your brain.
In the event of a slight rise in your body temperature—for example from stress, but even a cup of coffee can do the trick—your body's heat control system will bug almost instantly. As a result, your body reacts as if your temperature were far too high: your blood vessels open up to bring more blood to the skin and you start sweating to increase the release of heat through the skin. And there you have it: a hot flash!
Understanding how chemo induced hot flashes are triggered enables us to find ways to prevent them and dig into advice on how to deal with them better.
Five tips to reduce hot flashes
Tip 1: get enough exercise
Do not worry, there is no need to hit the gym all too hard. Relaxed walks, cycling, or a series of gentle yoga exercises already have a beneficial impact. Fond of floating around in the pool? Even better! Swimming is highly recommended since the water reduces the risk of hot flashes. Exercise helps you in many other ways too: it strengthens your bones, helps you sleep better and there is no better cure for stress and worries. Want to read more about exercising during and after chemo? >>
Tip 2: avoid stress
Easier said than done, we know. But try to prevent stress or find ways you can support yourself in stressful situations. Focus on your breathing and try to breathe in and out in a gentle way. Or clear your head by taking a walk in nature. Releasing tension is key: let it go! Elza from Frozen already figured it out ;-) Now it is your turn. In case you would get overwhelmed and you find yourself going through a hot flash after all, do not be too hard on yourself and just let it happen. If not, you will just increase the pressure you were already building and provoke even more stress.
Tip 3: do not overdo it on the coffee and alcohol
Of course, you do not have to deprive yourself of your daily dose of coffee but be cautious when consuming coffee and alcohol. They can provoke hot flashes or intensify them. Make sure to drink large amounts of water. This will remove toxins from your body and keep you well hydrated at all times.
Tip 4: medication on doctor's advice
Nowadays many women affected by menopause complaints are being treated through hormone substitution. But when you develop hot flashes after chemo or hormone therapy, you should not resort to just any remedy. Always consult your doctor or gynaecologist first and never randomly reach for medication, not even natural or homeopathic alternatives. In recent years, doctors have prescribed antidepressants to patients who suffer excessively from hot flashes associated with hormone therapy. Again: do not jump into anything without consulting your doctor first.
Tip 5: acupuncture
Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. Without any effect, alas. Others have told us it did work out well for them though. Scientists have not reached a consensus on the matter yet. Maybe worth a try?
Five pointers to keep a cool head (and body) in the face of hot flashes
Tip 1: stick to outfits/garments in natural fabrics
Synthetic fabrics, such as polyester or acrylic, are more likely to cause sweating. So opt for clothing made from natural materials, such as cotton, linen, and wool, but also viscose, modal, and tencel. Compose your outfit intelligently and use layers. This allows you to simply take something off as soon as you sense a flash coming up.The very same goes for your head by the way. Stick to natural materials for your hats and scarves. We have been swearing by high-quality viscose and cotton for years. Some hot summer day advice: our Audrey summer head wraps and our cotton Hannah head scarves are reversible. If your scarf should get sweaty, simply flip it inside out and let it air dry.
Tip 2: always carry a face mist in your bag
In a perfect world, you could just put your head in the fridge for a little while, but unfortunately, you cannot. Next best thing is a facial spray. Keep one of these small tins in your bag and mist your face, cleavage, and wrists whenever you are in serious need of a cool-down. By the way, did you know that there is a thing known as an ice towel that provides you with instant cooling? Handy! When at home, you can store the water vaporizer and towel in the fridge: even fresher!
Tip 3: cool yourself off with a handheld or electrical fan
Anything but a rare sight in the south: a fan creating a gentle breeze and providing a little extra cooling. No fan at hand? Even a piece of cardboard can do the trick.
Tip 4: choose a natural deodorant
We swear by a natural deodorant without aluminium, parabens, and alcohol. While it does not prevent the sweat from being released, it does eliminate unpleasant odours. We prefer a roller (rather than a spray) to take with us in our bag. In this way, you can apply the deodorant when needed but without psssssshhhht noises. ;-)
Tip 5: spend your nights in cotton sheets
As with clothing, natural fabrics such as cotton or linen are the most suitable choice for your duvet cover. Extra tip: keep your water spray by the bed at night. Feel a hot flash coming up? Apply the water mist to your face and body for a while and you will instantly feel refreshed.
Would you like to find out more about hot flashes and other side effects of cancer therapy?