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Elderly people at risk by using electric fans

Elderly people at risk by using electric fans

Older people are at risk of increasing their heart rate and core temperature by using electric fans, new research warns.

While young people's core temperatures drop and their sweat evaporates using a fan during hot weather, a study conducted by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found the effects to be opposite on pensioners.

This is because we sweat less as we age, and as the sweat is released and evaporates, it cools down the anatomy, acting as a natural air conditioner. However, as old people don't sweat as much it means their bodies retain the hot fluids, and when exposed to a fan those fluids heat up, which could cause serious health problems.

Three men and six women with an average age of 68, with the males wearing shorts and the females wearing shorts and a sports bra, were asked to sit in a chamber heated to 108F (42 degrees Celsius). After half an hour at a humidity of 30 per cent, the humidity was increased by two per cent every five minutes until it reached 70 per cent.

On separate days, participants had a 16-inch fan facing them from three feet away. No drinks were allowed during the test and their heart rates, sweat loss and core temperatures were documented.

Findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), showed the fan led to a higher core temperature and faster heart rate.

"Although differences were small, their cumulative effect may become clinically important with fan use during more prolonged heat exposure," said Dr Craig Crandall.

"Fan use elevates sweat loss in young adults. This was not observed in elderly adults, suggesting that age-related impairments in sweating capacity possibly limit the effectiveness of electric fans.

"Overall, this preliminary study indicates that electric fans may be detrimental for attenuating cardiovascular and thermal strain of elderly adults during heat waves."

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