We already know that going through menopause is a stressful time, but in the COVID era, it can get even worse. I am not just talking about dating with a mask which is anything but charming. I am talking about the new rules governing access to museums, shops, and airports. Of course, there are national differences between countries, but all airports for example, are performing temperature checks before entering.
Temperature testing is becoming our every day reality. But what on earth does the menopause have to do with this simple test? One simple, but vital thing: hot flushes. Hot flushes are one of the most common symptoms of menopause, and the vast majority of women suffer to some extent.
What is a hot flush?
Like night sweats, hot flushes are caused by a fall in oestrogen causing the hypothalamus (the region in your brain controlling body temperature) to think that you’re too hot (but in reality you are not). In response, the hypothalamus tries to cool your body down by opening up (vasodilating) blood vessels and sweat glands. This makes you get red and sweaty. This phenomenon can cause a fever like state which can last a few minutes. You can find more info about hot flushes here.
Coronavirus and temperature
In the COVID era even a slightly elevated body temperature could potentially be an issue. Why? Because one of the most easily detectable symptoms of COVID is a rise in body temperature, so airports, museums, and other locations are using temperature checks.
How do these tests work? The common non-contact thermometers measure skin temperature and not core body temperature. This may represent a problem for all women going through menopause, as during a hot flush, skin temperature can rise a little bit. There isn’t enough data yet to draw firm conclusions, but the worry of this is real.
This is similar to when you run or exercise and your skin feels hot. It doesn’t mean you have a fever, but you do need time to cool down.
An article in the The Irish News and information from Hormone Health corroborates this hypothesis and a professor of medical imaging agreed that a thermal camera could potentially (and wrongly) detect a hot flush as a high temperature.
The menopause is a delicate phase of transition for most women. Some women sail through it very easily – and some do not. Many women experience hot flushes. The fear now is that menopausal women may be mistaken as COVID positive. It is important that measures are in place in order to allow unbiased treatment of menopausal women when entering venues.
How can you avoid this?
Women experiencing a hot flush during a temperature check could try stepping away for a couple of minutes, preferably in the shade (even queueing in the sun does not help thermal checks). Try wearing layers of clothing in order to be able to remove them in case of a hot flush. It is also important to drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated. The most important issue however is societal awareness on the part of the institutions performing temperature checks.
A hot flush is a physiological reaction within the body and it is important for those responsible for checking temperatures to be aware of this. On the other hand, security in this pandemic is paramount. For this reason, talking about it is important.
Is there anything else to know?
Thermal scanners are used on the forehead and are not totally accurate. When you experience a hot flush, skin temperature tends to rise on the chest and neck, meaning a forehead test should be unaffected. In places like airports, a higher temperature check with a thermal scanner will not automatically result in you being turned away. Your temperature will be taken again with a more precise device.
Whilst it is commonly agreed, that thermal checks are not the most effective way to check for COVID, (as some positive people never develop a fever) it does seem that in certain situations, they will continue to be used as an indication. So, women out there, if you are about to experience a hot flush and waiting for a temperature check, go in the shade or have that cool drink you thought you didn’t need!