URL of this page: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/podcast/transcript040615.html

NLM Director’s Comments Transcript

Electric Fans Beat the Heat?: 04/06/2015

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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Electric fans may significantly reduce body temperature and lower heart rates in high heat and humidity, finds a small but interesting Australian study recently published in Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study’s young eight male participants showed elevated body temperatures and higher heart rates when the temperature in a room reached 97 and 108 degrees.

In addition, the study’s participants experienced critically high body temperatures and elevated heart rates when: an electric fan was not running; the room temperature was 97 degrees; and the humidity in the room was just 62 percent. When an electric fan was running at 97 degrees, the participants experienced critically high body temperatures and elevated heart rates when the humidity in the room was at 83 percent.

Similarly, the study’s participants experienced critically high body temperatures and elevated heart rates when: an electric fan was not running; the room temperature was 108 degrees; and the humidity in the room was just 38 percent. When an electric fan was running at 108 degrees, the participants experienced critically high body temperatures and elevated heart rates when the humidity in the room was at 47 percent.

The study suggests there may be significantly less heat stress at higher temperatures with an electric fan. The study’s authors explain deaths and hospitalizations increase during times of high heat and humidity regardless of location.

To add more context regarding the findings one of the authors told Reuters (and we quote): ‘People often perish in heat waves not because they had a critically high body temperature but because the elevated heart rate that arose from the heat stress exposed some underlying cardiovascular problems, which results in some kind of cardiac event’ (end of quote).

The study’s four authors explain while the research’s results apply only to healthy young men, the study’s interesting implication is high heat and humidity impact men at the time of life when they are most healthy.

Interestingly, the authors note the study is one of the first to provide evidence about the impact of electric fan use. The authors note the study is a partial response to a recent British systematic review that suggests no evidence supports or refutes the use of electric fans during heat waves.

So, the current study provides a start for future research that may make summer more bearable. I should acknowledge that it seems ironic and comforting to think about heat at a time of year when many Americans are struggling to stay warm.

Meanwhile, MedlinePlus.gov’s heat illness health topic page provides a number of helpful resources about remaining healthy when it is very hot. For example, the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention provides an overview of extreme heat and your health in a website that is available within the ‘overviews’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s heat illness health topic page.

Some specific information about heart health in extreme heat (from the American Heart Association) is available in the ‘related issues’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s heat illness health topic page.

Sections within MedlinePlus.gov’s heat illness health topic page provide information about heat implications for seniors, children, and teenagers.

MedlinePlus.gov’s heat illness health topic page additionally provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. Links to clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section. You can sign up to receive updates about heat illness as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov’s heat illness health topic page type ‘heat illness’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page, then, click on ‘heat illness (National Library of Medicine).’

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It was nice to be with you. I look forward to meeting you here next week.