Using a fan during a heat wave can kill you officials warn

Dog cooling himself near a fan illustration 
By: Moses Gold 

People love using fans during extreme heat instead of air conditioning in order to save some money on their electric bills.

Already this summer, much of the world has faced record setting, triple-digit temperatures, and it is still mid-August.
Now, as heat waves become more common, a recent report questions the safety of a method long relied upon to stay cool in the sweltering days; the electric fan.

While the review found little evidence of harm linked to a person's health by using an electric fan without air conditioning, the researchers concluded that more and better studies are needed to fully understand the impact a fan causes during heat waves.

"The main implication of this review is that quality research is needed to resolve the current uncertainty about the benefits and harms of using electric fans during heat waves," Katie Carmichael of the U.K.'s Health Protection Agency, or HPA, said in a press conference.

Conducted by the international nonprofit research group Cochrane Collaboration, the review was carried out for the benefit of public policy and health, said Virginia Murray, who heads a division of the HPA.

She explained that after a 2003 heat wave killed 30,000 in Europe, health officials in England developed a heat wave plan for the country, which is reviewed and updated annually.

"We wondered if it would help to encourage the use of electric fans," she said.

One concern is that you can do more harm than good when temperatures are very high by heating the body instead of cooling it with a fan, said Murray. At high temperatures, fans can also encourage excess sweating, which can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, which can affect the performance of everything from your heart to your nerves. This may be especially true for the elderly and sick.

The review of the research that was presented showed no direct link between the use of fans and an
increased death rate during a heat wave.

The results of less rigorous studies are mixed, with some suggesting that fans reduce heat-related injuries, while others found it made things worse.

Based on this evidence, the researchers concluded that electric fans could do more harm than good when temperatures are above 95 degrees.

However, "our review did not support or refute the use of electric fans during a heat wave," said Carmichael.