Being a life-long Midwestern girl living in Kansas City, heat and humidity is a necessary evil of summer. (We won’t even talk about winter!) A forecast of 90 degrees is rarely the whole story once you factor in the humidity percentage. At 70% humidity, 90 degrees can actually “feel like” 105 degrees. And, according to the National Weather Service, since heat index values were devised for shady, light wind conditions, exposure to full sunshine can increase the temperature by up to 15 degrees! WOW!
Whether going through perimenopause, post-menopause or other conditions that cause you to heat up, those hot flashes aren’t exactly a picnic at any time of year, and in summer…those 90-degree days can become simply unbearable. (At least in winter you can throw open a door and – presto – instant relief!)
In a ten-year Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, nearly 1000 women recorded their menopause symptoms each month over the ten years. From the data, scientists concluded that hot flashes, night sweats and difficulty sleeping were most prevalent in summer and least in winter. Women were 66% more likely to experience hot flashes, 50% more likely to experience night sweats, and 24% more likely to experience difficulty in sleeping in June and July than in December and January.
One of the key ways the body cools itself is by sweating. But on a hot, humid (remember that “feels like” temp?) day, sweat has a harder time of evaporating into air that is already filled with more water vapor in the atmosphere and that’s where the hot, sticky feeling comes from. Sweat rests on our skin unable to evaporate into the air. As a result, our body continues to sweat and sweat – but feels no relief. Ultimately, high humidity throws our body into overdrive to cool itself. And with all that extra work, body temperature can rise. Add the hot flash to this situation and you feel like you will burst into flames!
The inability to cool down leaves us more than just uncomfortable. It can actually wear down our internal processes. As our core temperature continues to rise, our body needs to work harder to try and cool down. As a result, we begin overheating which can lead to our body losing water, salt and chemicals needed to function.
The easiest way to stay healthy when heat and humidity are high is to stay in an air-conditioned, cool space. Keeping the inside air dry can also make it easier for you and your body to cool off. Trying a home dehumidifier may help inside as they are built to remove moisture from the air. If staying inside is not an option, it is important to be prepared before going outside.
Also be aware that some medications can impact your body’s ability to cool down. For example, antihistamines taken for allergies can impair your body’s ability to cool off. Read your medicine labels or check with your doctor to know if you’re at risk.
Some additional simple tips you can try.
- Carry a portable fan with you when outside. Have a small fan on you at night.
- Wear layers so that you can remove clothing when a hot flash starts.
- Stay hydrated – keep a bottle of water with you.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods.
- Wear loose-fitting cotton clothing.
- Carry a spray bottle with water to mist you when feeling hot. Even add some essential oils like lavender, peppermint or sandalwood for added refreshment.
- Exercise regularly.
- Try to avoid things that you know trigger your hot flashes.
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