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When Hot Flashes Strike at Work

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Female teacher helping a young female student Burlingham/fotolia

I love posting heartwarming menopause stories on my menopause blog. And yes, there are heartwarming menopause stories! One of my favorites is the story of Sirena Pellarolo, who worked as a high school Spanish teacher. Sirena learned to shout “HOT FLASH!” to warn her students a hot flash was coming on. Then she’d sit down in a chair until the hot flash passed, as her students waited sympathetically.

Menopause expert Ellen Dolgen reports, “some hot flash symptoms are a sudden rush of heat – so hot that your face may actually become flushed – that may quickly subside. Others can be an all-day sweat session of intense perspiration.” No matter what form your hot flashes take, if you suffer from them, they’ll follow you to work. Managing hot flashes in the workplace can be quite a challenge. Healthline’s Lindsay Boyers warns that it’s “important to learn tips and tricks that can help reduce the severity and frequency of hot flashes so that the work day is not so taxing.”

Here are a few tips to try:

Temperature: If you’re able to adjust the thermostat at your place of work, do so. If not, perhaps you can plug in a small fan or keep a battery-operated handheld fan nearby. Some women have good luck with cooling towels, available commercially.

Clothing: Dress in layers. You can cool off by removing a top layer. Sweater sets are great for layering, and so are jackets with a short sleeve or sleeveless top. Avoid turtlenecks. Choose breathable fabrics such as cotton, linen, or lightweight denim. Stay away from polyester, nylon, and wool. Loosefitting clothing and open-toed shoes are also a good idea. A small towel is handy to soak up perspiration.

Hair: If your hair is long enough to pull back, bring hair ties. This will keep your hair off your neck, where perspiration tends to collect. Consider keeping a blow dryer at work if your hair gets really wet.

Stress: Lindsay Boyers suggests giving yourself adequate time to arrive at work and meetings: “Rushing around can raise your body temperature, triggering a hot flash.” Be careful of deadlines that may worry you. Try to tackle projects at a steady pace, if possible, to avoid last minute panics. And on those rare days, when work slows down, take full advantage of the break in pressure. Chill and treat yourself to a snack, short walk, or chat by the water cooler.

Don’t Be Shy: Consider talking honestly about your hot flashes with your co-workers and other people you encounter if it feels appropriate. This will help you stay calmer and feel less embarrassed when a hot flash comes on.

Your Doctor: Check with your doctor. He or she may have suggestions such as hormonal treatments, dietary changes or medications that may reduce hot flashes.

What’s the heartwarming ending to Sirena Pellarolo’s classroom story? One of her students saw the play "Menopause the Musical" on a trip with her older sister to Las Vegas. The student returned with a present. “They were giving out these cute fans to audience members,” she explained, handing the fan to Sirena. “I thought it would come in handy when you’re teaching class and those hot flashes take you by surprise.” Now that’s an understanding student and much-loved teacher!


Ellen Dolgen. What It’s Like to Have Hot Flashes at Work: Just Not Cool. Everyday Health. Retrieved November 15, 2015. http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/what-its-like-to/what-its-like-to-have-hot-flashes-at-work-just-not-cool/

Lindsay Boyers. Managing Your Hot Flashes at Work. Healthline. Retrieved November 15, 2015. http://www.healthline.com/health/menopause/hot-flashes-at-work

Reviewed November 20, 2015
By Philip Sarrel, M.D. and Lorna Sarrel, M.S.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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