It is very common to utilize electric fans during extreme heat waves, however, a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that this might put older adults at risk.
The bodies of the older adults and those who are sick have more difficulties adapting to extreme temperatures compared to sane and younger adults. Worryingly, these extreme temperatures are becoming more common every year, thanks to the global warming phenomenon.
The research found out that during a triple-digit heat, fans are less useful for these two groups than for younger, sane adults.
For the study, the team analyzed nine adults, three men, and six women, whose ages ranged from sixty to eighty, while seated in a closed chamber that was heated to 107 degrees Fahrenheit. The seniors sat there while the scientists used a steam generator to bring up the humidity from thirty to seventy percent, and were dressed only in shorts, for the men, and shorts and a sports bra for the women.
The elderly sat firstly with a 16-inch electric fan inside the chamber, and the next day came back to sit without the fan. The study concluded that the fans were harmful to the participants. The senior’s heart rates rise ten beats per minute, and their body temperature increased almost half a degree. According to co-author Craig Crandall, a UT Southwestern Medical Center researcher, being regularly exposed to a fan, and by consequence, having a higher beat rate and body temperature stress the heart.
A cardiologist at the Heart Hospital at Baylor in Plano, Texas, Dr. Sarah Samaan, agrees with the study. She stated that these elevated body temperatures and heart rate put excessive strain on the heart, something especially dangerous for older people, and could lead to the heart not getting enough blood or high blood pressure.
The contrary occurred with the youngsters. Subjected to the same conditions, their heart beats decreased and so do their body temperatures.
Why such disparity between young and old?
Scientists believe the answer might be found in sweat. The human body avoids dangerously overheating through perspiration. The droplets cool while evaporating, refreshing the skin’s surface and, by extension, the body temperature. Electric fans make the evaporation process more quickly, by blowing excess air into the skin. The problem resides in the fact that seniors and sick people don’t sweat as much.
In their case, the air is blown by the fan (which is more warm than cold) just pushes more hot air into the skin, where there are not enough sweat droplets to act as a barrier, according to Crandall. With the increased humidity, the seniors reported they did not felt colder with the fan on.
However, at normal temperatures electric fans might be beneficial, because less perspiration is needed to cool down the body, and the air blown by the fan is also cooler, as stated by co-researcher Matthew Cramer.
Nonetheless, the discovery needs to be studied more in-depth, since the researchers are not sure of where the “upper limit” lies for the safe use of fans. The team gave a recommendation in which older adults should stay in an air-conditioned room during extreme temperatures. If there is not an air-conditioner available at their place, they should seek refuge in a shopping mall, a friend’s house or a movie theater. It is also important to drink enough water to keep hydrated.
Despite its deniers, climate change is very real. On August, NASA announced that the polar caps had diminished dramatically over the course of a century. This year’s average temperature has been 1.3 degrees Celsius higher than what it as two centuries ago. This means that 2016 will indeed become the hottest year since 1880, a doubtful honor that so far belonged to 2015.
So far, India, the United States, New Zealand, Indonesia, and China have experienced their worst heat waves and floodings in decades, while northern Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia have experienced terrible droughts that had put millions at risk of starvation.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, comprised of more than one thousand scientific experts from all over the world, released recently their Fourth Assessment Report, where they reached the conclusion that undoubtedly, human activity has warmed the planet in the last five decades.
These are the consequences product of the industrial revolution, in which humanity’s modern civilization was based. These activities have doubled the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in the last century and a half. The modern gasses generated by human life, such as methane, greenhouse gasses, and carbon dioxide, which are a particular product of the last fifty years, have increased the world’s temperature at higher levels than previously thought. So far, the increased temperature is greater than in the past ten thousand years.
Source: Tech Times