Does the Use of a Handheld Fan Improve Chronic Dyspnea? A Randomized, Controlled, Crossover Trial

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2010 May;39(5):831-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2009.09.024.

Abstract

Context: Dyspnea is a disabling distressing symptom that is common in advanced disease affecting millions of people worldwide. Current palliative strategies are partially effective in managing this symptom; facial cooling has been shown to reduce the sensation of breathlessness when induced in volunteers but has not been formally investigated in dyspnea associated with disease.

Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate whether a handheld fan reduces the sensation of breathlessness in such patients, enhancing palliative approaches.

Methods: The effectiveness of a handheld fan (blowing air across the nose and mouth) in reducing the sensation of breathlessness was assessed in patients with advanced disease. Fifty participants were randomized to use a handheld fan for five minutes directed to their face or leg first and then crossed over to the other treatment. The primary outcome measure was a decrease of greater than 1cm in breathlessness recorded on a 10 cm visual analog scale (VAS).

Results: There was a significant difference in the VAS scores between the two treatments, with a reduction in breathlessness when the fan was directed to the face (P=0.003).

Conclusion: This study supports the hypothesis that a handheld fan directed to the face reduces the sensation of breathlessness. The fan was acceptable to participants: it is inexpensive, portable, enhances self-efficacy, and available internationally. It should be recommended as part of a palliative management strategy for reducing breathlessness associated with advanced disease.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dyspnea / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care
  • Patient Selection
  • Self Care / instrumentation*
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN44193804