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Fans Not Helpful in Heat Wave

Update Date: Jul 13, 2012 12:18 PM EDT

The first six months of 2012 were the hottest in the earth's recorded history. To seek some comfort, people have flocked to nearby beaches and turned their fans and ACs up a notch. But could using a fan to get relief from the unbearable heat be a waste of time? Researchers are saying yes.

According to a new review published in the Cochrane Library, there's no good evidence that fans help during a heat wave.

According to researchers, when temperatures rise over 95°F , an electric fan can actually increase your body's heat stress by blowing air that is warmer than the ideal body temperature over your skin.

"An increase [in] sweating can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. If these fluids and electrolytes are not replaced quickly enough, there is a possibility [that fans] may do more harm than good," say the authors of the review.

 "It is important to know about the potential benefits and harms of electric fans when choosing whether to use one. This is true if you are simply making a decision about your own use of a fan, but it also applies to broader public health decisions, such as whether to give electric fans to groups of people during a heatwave," said review author Dr. Saurabh Gupta, a consultant in public health at Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust, in the U.K., in a statement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends electric fan use only when temperatures are below the 90s. Otherwise, people should turn on the air conditioning to cool down. If you don't have A/C, the CDC recommends taking a cool shower or bath, refraining from turning on the stove or oven to maintain a cooler temperature, and calling a local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.

 "This is an incredibly important area of research for people seeking relief and a strategy to prevent negative effects of heat, including hospitalization and death," says Dr. Kay Dickersin, director of the U.S. Cochrane Center at Johns Hopkins University, who studies heatwaves but was not involved in the current review.

According to the CDC, in a heat wave;

keeping your cool will keep you healthy.

People and animals should stay indoors.

If you don't have air-conditioning, go to the mall or the library or a community relief shelter.

Remember to drink more fluids, but avoid alcohol and high sugar drinks.

When going out, wear light clothing and never leave any persons, especially infants or young children, or animals in a closed, parked vehicle.

To learn more, call 800-CDC-INFO.

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