Feeling The Heat? Turn off The Fan

As summer keeps on rolling along, and temperatures continue to rise, trying to stay cool in the sweltering heat becomes even more difficult. Several cities through the East Coast and Midwest have already set record temperatures this summer, and with the dog days of August still to come, relief from the heat seems a long way off. While individuals lucky enough to live in homes or apartments with a state of the art cooling systems can stay relatively comfortable at home, residents who live in older homes and apartments may have to rely on window unit air conditioners and electric fans to get to keep cool. However, a recent study suggests that using an electric fan to stay cool during a heat wave may actually make you hotter.

Publishing their review of multiple studies from across the globe on the effectiveness of electric fans in The Cochrane Library, researchers claim that no evidence suggests that electric fans help keep people cool during a heat wave. According to the study’s findings, using a fan to cool off when temperatures reach 95 and above can actually make a person feel even hotter, and leave them unable to sweat and feeling ill. While researchers don’t entirely agree as to why, but many believe that hot air blowing on someone already overheated can lead to an increase rate of dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Public health agencies responsible for preparing what to do during a heat wave seem at a loss about the ideal ways to stay cool during a heat wave. Heat has already become the most deadly weather-related phenomenon in the U.S., out pacing the freezing weather and tornados, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. In 2003, approximately 30,000 deaths were attributed to a European heat wave, and in the U.S. 46 people have already died due to the heat in June and July alone. Don’t expect much relief from the heat during the rest of summer either, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has stated that the first six months of 2012 were the warmest on record. 

Staying cool is especially important for seniors and young children who are the most susceptible to the effects of heat. Even if you don’t have air conditioning, you can take several steps to keep cool.

  • Close all of your blinds and keep your windows shut during the hottest parts of the day. While it might seem counter productive to keep your windows shut, the hot air from outside will only cause your home to get warmer instead of cooler.
  • At night open windows to let cooler air in, and keep the interior doors of rooms you’re not using shut.
  • Try creating your own A/C system by setting a bowl of ice directly in front of a fan. You can also trying freezing a two liter bottle, and then set that before your fan. As the ice melts, the cool temperatures that surround the bottle will also cool the air that’s blown in your direction.
  • Avoid staying home during the hottest parts of the day. There are many air conditioned places you can go when temperatures are at their hottest that won’t cost you any money.  Libraries, malls, churches and community centers are all open to the public. 

Timothy Lemke blogs about health for Dr. Lance Baily, a dentist in Clackamas Oregon.