Everything you need to know about COVID-19 & Menopause

By Julia W. – RN, BSN

Menopause is already a challenging time for women as we navigate the physical, mental, and emotional changes. Add in a pandemic, and it can surely increase some of the more intense symptoms of menopause. Here, we answer burning questions about menopause and coronavirus and share tips on how to take care of your health during this time.

What We Are Learning About COVID-19 for Women in Menopause

We have been battling COVID-19 for several months now and are learning new characteristics about this disease daily. Recently, studies have pointed to obvious disparities between sexes. Some studies have found that men are twice as likely as women to contract COVID-19. In Italy, the results were even more staggering in that men in their 50’s were four times more likely to be infected by the disease than women of the same age. This blatant disparity between sexes has led researchers to question whether apparent differences between the sexes, like estrogen, play a role in fighting COVID-19. 

We know that estrogen has an immunoprotective role in the body. Women tend to have a more robust response to infections and vaccinations. Powerful female immune systems can sometimes even go rogue and cause women to experience autoimmune diseases more frequently than men. 

In search of an answer to the gap between the sexes, some clinicians have tried injecting estrogen into men to boost their immune systems. However, there are many factors that can contribute to this disproportionate difference between the sexes, including age, health status, race or ethnicity, class, and other social factors (like occupation). Indeed, one of the key factors is that women are generally in better health compared to men. One study found that men in China had more comorbidities than women, and thus were more likely to be hospitalized and have negative outcomes if infected with COVID-19. 

So, what does this mean for women in menopause who have lower estrogen levels, and may be at risk for some health conditions related to low estrogen?  

Does Menopause Increase Your Risk For COVID-19?

Menopause does not directly affect a woman’s risk for COVID-19. There are multiple factors that contribute to your susceptibility to having a difficult time fighting this infection. However, people with chronic health conditions and comorbidities are more likely to suffer, and postmenopausal women are at greater risk for chronic health conditions like heart disease and weight gain. People with both of these health conditions are likely to have difficulty fighting COVID-19.  

Lower estrogen levels are also associated with a weaker immune system, which could compromise your immune response. Some studies have suggested that estrogen hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may help boost the immune system. Still, the current data cannot confirm the efficacy of starting HRT to improve your immune response. 

COVID-19 Safety Measures in Public Spaces: What If I Have a Hot Flash?!

Before COVID-19, most of us never gave a second thought to a sneeze or cough in the grocery store check-out lane. But in light of the current pandemic, people understandably have a heightened awareness of other people’s health sharing a similar space. But if you have symptoms related to another condition, such as allergies, asthma, or even menopause, it can make you feel quite self-conscious and possibly nervous about going out in public. 

Public safety measures are in place to keep you and everyone else safe. However, menopause symptoms can make following these safety measures difficult and downright anxiety-provoking. Save from wearing a shirt that says, “I’m not sick, just menopausal,” consider this information when you are next out in public and worried about your menopause symptoms.

Temperature and Hot flashes. Many venues require a temperature check before you can enter. Women who have hot flashes often worry that they will be denied entrance (and subsequently humiliated) because their temperature may be elevated during a hot flash. Rest assured, hot flashes usually do not change a temperature reading on a thermometer. Although it doesn’t feel like it, your core temperature remains relatively stable during a hot flash. Hot flashes are thought to be caused by an inappropriate response of your hypothalamus to subtle changes in body temperature. And while sweating can be annoying, it actually cools your skin, so temperature scanners should not pick up the fire you are feeling beneath your skin. 

Masks, Hot Flashes, and Anxiety. Many businesses and cities require masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Women commonly report that masks cause them to have hot flashes and even make them feel panicky. Worrying about your symptoms being mistaken for early signs of the virus, coupled with a general fear for public spaces during a pandemic, women can feel a lot of anxiety that is worsened by not being able to breathe normally. However, masks (and social distancing) are the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at this point, so it is essential that you wear a mask. If you find masks make you have hot flashes or contribute to anxiety, try the following when you have to go out in public:

  • Keep your neck and upper chest free of clothes and accessories such as tight-fitting collars, necklines, necklaces, and scarves.
  • Lighten your load by not carrying a heavy bag or purse
  • Plan your outings so that you maximize your productivity but minimize your time while wearing a mask. 
  • Take advantage of services that keep you out of stores and in your car or at home. Some places off curbside pick-up for groceries and other goods.
  • Practice steady, diaphragmatic breathing or repeat mantras that help you stay calm and focused while wearing your mask
  • Consider adding essential oils such as lavender or peppermint below your nose or on your chin. Aromatherapy can be calming and even uplifting. 

Caring For Your Mental Health During COVID-19

The loss of our normal routines, coupled with the uncertainty and fear surrounding this pandemic, can wreak havoc on everyone’s mental health. Because menopause can cause anxiety and depression, your mental health may be even more compromised. Taking care of your mental wellbeing is always important, but it is especially critical right now. Consider these strategies to help keep you healthy and happy.

  • Find a routine. Our pre-COVID routines have been out the window for several months now. If you haven’t established a new routine, do so, as having a routine can make you feel more secure and relieve anxiety about unpredictable days. 
  • Be kind to yourself. So often, we put our families and careers above our own needs. Yet, in order to care for others long-term, we have to learn to care for ourselves. Do something kind to yourself each day to lift your spirits, such as practicing mindfulness, doing yoga, or doing something you love just for yourself.
  • See if you are a candidate for HRT. While some theories suggest estrogen could play a role in protecting people from COVID-19, the studies are inconclusive at this point. Nonetheless, HRT can be quite effective in managing menopause symptoms and curbing your risk for chronic health conditions related to low estrogen that may also increase your risk of having an adverse outcome from COVID-19. If you are struggling with anxiety, mood swings, hot flashes, or weight gain, talk with your doctor to see if HRT is a good option for you. 
  • Talk to someone. Meeting with a therapist (which can be done remotely) can be a great way to take care of your mind. Techniques such as talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy can help you identify negative thought patterns, teach you to respond to negative stimuli in a healthier way, and help you develop coping mechanisms. 
  • Stay connected. Fortunately, we live in an age where we can easily connect with almost everyone. Schedule regular chats with family and friends who lift your spirits. Sometimes family and friends may not understand what you’re feeling in menopause, so staying connected with others on a similar journey can also be helpful. Know that Caria and its community are here for you during these tough times.

How have you been coping during the pandemic? Share your experience or advice with the community below.

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I have been on Furlough since the beginning of April, rather than lie in bed later than the time l would have to get up and wfh (6.30)l have stuck to a routine. I get up around 7am do a workout, shower then have breakfast. Spend a bit of time 📖 the bible & 🙏🏾 Baking a lot of baking 🤷🏽‍♀️ gardening l find they both clear my mind 😊

I was so struggling back when this all started. I’ve only just started feeling a bit more normal after establishing a new routine. I make sure to go outside for at least 30 minutes every day and spend some time in the sun and in nature. Helps tremendously.

I try to do many of the digest suggestions you give. I have some Depression not sleeping consistently well every night but my eating habits haven’t changed I g and that’s my main priority during this Pandemic. I spend my time doing online work , schooling online and researching health investments and making my home environmentally friendly

Sadly as a healthcare worker my work has increased and become more unknown which has increased my menopause symptoms linked to my mental healtj

Strengthen your Faith and have closer walk with Jesus..I thank you for the work you do ..Grace and Peace be with you always.🙏🏽 Psalms 37:3 – 7 is comforting…

My menopause REALLY kicked in once I started lockdown 🙈 I was getting 4 hours sleep a night for weeks, pain in my body and hot sweats but my “pandemic” doctor has been amazing 😊 she has bent over backwards to help me get it under control 👍🏻 But while we were trialling different medications I found doing an hour of yoga, walking my dog for an hour helped with aches and pains and clearing my mind. I would get dressed put on makeup and everything, every day and send pics to my friends 👍🏻🤣 also found this helped with mental well-being. I did have low days but my family and friends would always reach out and I could chat/cry 🥰 the most important thing I learnt though was to take time for myself. I’ve come out of lockdown more positive and content ❤️

Im at end of menopause 58 but have rogue immune system Have Graves disease & have low oestrogen my gp prescribed pessary have 1 twice week it has helped not hot flashes those happen with my autoimmune problem too

Hi there. Strangely enough I think menopause has kicked in for me too during our shelter in place. Yes, awful sweats, no sleep, etc. I have, however, stayed with a routine, been excerising and yes, sometimes not eating great. But I give myself some forgiveness. It’s been challenging but I’m trying to stay positive, I don’t need to wear many clothes while I’m home and can keep the house cool, which my husband loves. Bless you ladies!!!

I’m perimenopausal and have got long haul Covid! Both really don’t like each other and I’m positive the flare ups I have are worse when I’m heading towards the time of the month!

I have been working during lock down, I spend more time at work sometime I forget my symptomes

Yea ok Pleased to read about hot flashs during this Pandemic thanks u have put my mind at rest

My work (public school district) got more intense since March and while I do have a work schedule, I’ve failed up to now at creating a new routine to support my wellbeing. Just got my period for the first time in 48 days; body decided that lockdown was the perfect opportunity to begin irregular periods. 😂 Hot flashes started as well (night sweats had already been happening for the last 6-8 months I think). I’m talking tomorrow with a friend about getting a routine going and sticking with it. I am so much better about supporting others in their routines than I am supporting myself. 🤷🏻‍♀️🙂

I am very grateful to be reading this today. I have been able to bury myself in my work during the pandemic. I find when I’m not working I am crying. My mental health has deteriorated. I will start daily mindfulness and positive need to exercise more.

In Feb just before lockdown my partner of 17 years, and father to my child, up sticks & walked out at 7am in the morning, stating he’d never be coming back.
It was a controlling relationship and so over time I’ve lost friends & family.
Now I am slowly getting back into some sense of life beyond him.
I speak to my mum almost daily. She lives two hundred miles away.
My 12 yr old daughter has also become distant & started her periods, and I’ve gone on HRT. I’m in the UK so things may be different here, than for some.
I was 52 in March. My daughter’s school closed in April. She was 12 in June, and started her period a week before her birthday.
She is staying in her room, and even isolating herself from me, it feels like.
My mum said maybe she blames me for her Dad leaving.
It’s been really hard not being able to go out to, to start new hobbies or try to distract myself from all the thoughts that crowd my head sometimes.
He won’t answer calls or texts, and has just literally left. It’s almost like a death to me, it was so sudden.
I’m writing this in the hope of making new virtual friends on here.
I’m lucky to have a garden. And I live near the sea, although the tourists have descended in droves so much so, it hit the mainstream news!
Is there anyone out there who can relate to what I’m going through?

Surprised no one had responded
Not sure how long ago this was posted
But one thing for sure
No woman needs a man to be happy and fulfilled their goals
Take this opportunity to bond with your daughter
If she is isolating at 12 , believe me there’s much worse coming
Hope it won’t get to that
Do things together
In the kitchen
Watch a movie
And shopping when things get more normal
Wish you the best

Since lock down with the COVID-19.i am on furlough.due to trouble with asthma and my partner is undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy an immunotherapy,so I set myself a routine to walk 15k daily, although I can see myself loosing weight then gain weight again, I am eating healthy meals, does anyone have any advice

At first I was fine. I was laid off from the best job ever in late March and thought I’d be back to work in a few weeks. Here we are 5 months later, 5 pounds heavier too, with NO job prospects at all and no routine and bad menopausal stuff happening. My work field is gone and I have zero motivation to go back to school to train to be something else. I should work and not let hubby bear all of the expenses but I have no motivation to do anything. My Dr prescribed a meditation book for me to read (he’s so cute- he wants his patients to read and change their diets in lieu of taking drugs). I sew and draw for relaxation, I read and walk with hubby because he’s home with me. I would say I am coping ok but could be doing better.