Mask–Induced Hot Flashes

There was a time when I was always cold, when I loved to wear fleece and sleep in sweat pants or snuggled up to The Doc, who I often referred to as my personal pot-belly stove. Not that he had the belly but he did hold the heat. That was a long time ago. These days, I tend to run hot. Something like and old car.

Menopause, was a long and complicated journey. Surgically necessary in my forties. Tempered for eight years while on estrogen. Then returning like a freight train once I decided to stop taking the estrogen for the sake of my boobs. Studies have linked it to breast cancer. My nose dive into menopause made me bitchier and graced me with hot flashes every fifteen minutes for years until slowly—very slowly—it eased its way into history a few years ago. Although not without leaving the occasional reminder, like a hot flash every time I need to pee, literally every time, so still several times a day. Believe it or not, this is a cup-half-full situation for me, as close to normal as I ever expect to be.

Recently I discovered something else that will induce hot flashes. Yup, masks. Since this Covid 19 thing began, I have not been out much. I am very good at self isolating. As an introvert, it is second nature. But there were trips to the grocery store and the drug store and as time wore on a few other places to support local businesses as things started to open up, all the while practicing safe distancing. I did wear a mask at the hair dresser and in the dentist’s reception area. I knew they would be warm; but I didn’t realize they would induce that familiar feeling that started with a hot tingling in my thighs that traveled upwards to redden my neck, flush my cheeks and create beads of sweat that turned into running drips on my forehead. Honestly, I did not expect that.

A couple of weeks ago the province of Nova  Scotia implemented a mandatory mask policy for public buildings. And I get this. I understand why it is necessary even though our province is weathering this pandemic very well. There are a lot of people out there who are getting fatigued with isolating and distancing and no longer feel it necessary to be vigilant. Who prefer to be oblivious to the possibility of a second wave. On the other hand, there are a lot of essential workers, my sister being one of them, who have been wearing masks every day all day during this time. People who are getting tired of working so hard and being so hot because of the masks and other gear they are required to wear and because of the warmer weather and the stress of their jobs. People who don’t know when or if their lives will ever get back to normal. So yes we all need to suck it up and wear our masks whether we like them or not.

Currently, I have retreated back into isolation while searching for a mask that will offer the least amount of flashing. Now I used to be a sewer. I used to make everything, including my winter coats, so everyone just expected that I would happily start making masks. Wrong! I have no desire to get my old sewing machine repaired, go material shopping, and spend time making masks all the while cursing that old machine, my rusty skills and the fact that I can’t see where to thread the needle. These days, I hate sewing. My objective is to purchase masks. I don’t need or want a fashion statement. I need simple, plain, not-overly-warm masks.

Not all masks are created equal. The very first mask I used was a medical 3M N95 model. This mask was so hot that I can’t help but feel for all those essential workers that need to don one of these every day. After only two wears, this mask was retired. Then I got a lovely pink number by Bee Sure, also medical grade, given to me by the dentist because she felt sorry for me during the middle of a hot flashing event. At the time I was wearing the N95 model. “Take this,” she said, “Put it in your purse, you can use it more than once.” So I did. Two hot flashes later and this one is now history. The Doc and I picked up a couple of reusable ones at Canadian Tire–Canada’s trusty-almost-everything store. The lightly stretchable fabric is easier to wear for a longer period and there is space to breathe. I also managed to find a package of 20 blue, non-medical disposable masks that are much lighter than the pink number mentioned above and can be worn by me for a longer period. These two variations will hopefully get me through grocery shopping and most other necessary outings for the next little while. I will, however, still be on the lookout for other options since mask wearing could drag on for quite some time.

The last mask I purchased is a low-end little thing that I like to call The Lone Ranger. It is lightweight and very cheaply made, but relatively comfortable; and I am all about comfort. So when it is hot, you can expect to see me in this ugly accessory. That is if I decide to leave my comfortable isolated world and venture back out to be social again.

Hi Ho Silver. Away!

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Photos: Jenn Stone

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